WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama believes that Pope Francis is “uncomfortable with all the trappings of being a pope.”
Obama made the comment to CBS News after meeting with the leader of the Catholic Church for the first time at the Vatican.
“His simplicity and his belief in the power of the spiritual over the material reflects itself in everything that he says and does,” Obama told CBS News. “And I suspect, my sense is, is that he’s a little bit uncomfortable with all the trappings of being pope.”
Obama said the trappings were not the pope’s style.
“And that is part of why I think he has been so embraced around the world,” Obama explained. “Because people get a sense that first and foremost he sees himself as a priest and as a disciple of Christ and as somebody who is concerned with, you know, ‘the least of these.’ And, you know, nothing’s more powerful than someone who seems to live out their convictions.”
Despite their differences about gay marriage and the health care law’s birth-control mandate, Obama noted that they spent most of their nearly hour-long meeting talking about income disparity.
Obama has visited the Vatican once before as president, meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. But Obama’s meeting with the current pope was more highly anticipated, given their shared economic philosophies and Francis’ own global popularity.
According to the Pew Research Center more than eight in 10 U.S. Catholics say they have a favorable view of the pontiff.
While Francis has brought a change in tone and emphasis to aspects of the Vatican, the core doctrines that have divided the church and the Obama administration have not changed.
Obama is a strong supporter of abortion rights, while Francis embraces church teaching against abortion. Still, the pope has said he wants to focus more on his church being a welcoming place for wounded souls rather than a moralizing church.
There are also difficult areas of discord between U.S. bishops and the Obama administration over the administration’s health care overhaul. U.S. bishops were among the most outspoken opponents of “Obamacare,” objecting to its mandatory coverage of birth control. The Supreme Court this week seemed divided when hearing arguments in a case in which companies argued that they have religious rights and can object to such coverage based on such beliefs.
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