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Hollywood ‘Noah’ wants to save nature, not humanity

March 28th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

“Noah,” which begins as a fairly straightforward recounting of the biblical story of the flood, eventually veers off into a grim, scripturally unfounded drama about a family dispute.

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe star in a scene from the movie “Noah.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.(CNS photo/Paramount)

This clan conflict is driven by the titular patriarch’s (Russell Crowe) misguided interpretation of God’s purposes in causing the deluge. Though Noah’s extreme pro-nature, anti-human reading of the situation is corrected in the end, his temporary fanaticism requires that viewers approach the film with mature discernment and with a solid grounding in the relevant, sometimes mysterious passages of the Old Testament.

Even early on, the narrative of the Book of Genesis is padded out, and there are some borrowings from other parts of the Bible as well as from noncanonical works. Thus, in convincingly portraying the wickedness from which the earth is to be cleansed, director and co-writer Darren Aronofsky embodies the range of sinful tendencies on display in the impious person of self-proclaimed “King” Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone).

The single verse of Scripture that refers to Tubal-Cain, Chapter 4, Verse 22, of Genesis, tells us only about his genealogy and his role as, more or less, the first metalworker. But there is a tradition that at least part of Tubal-Cain’s craft involved forging weapons, so perhaps he can reasonably be enlisted as the prototype of arms merchants and war-profiteers.

A more questionable exercise of creative liberty presents us with a race of giant creatures called the Watchers. Their background story, meant to connect them to the shadowy Nephilim mentioned in Chapter 6 of Genesis, describes them as angels who voluntarily fell to Earth to help the fledgling human race. The idea of angel-like Watchers also evokes the Book of Daniel and the extra-canonical books of Enoch and Jubilees.

Still, the opening sequences are largely faithful to the original story, though in place of a direct revelation by God, Noah is tipped off to the fate of humanity by a dream. He interprets this vision, acknowledging that it was sent by “the Creator,” as God is always called in the dialogue, with the help of his grandfather, Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins).

The building of the ark and the gathering of the animals are also according to Hoyle, and are accomplished through predictably impressive special effects.

On the eve of the flood, though, the stage is set for the familial clash that will occupy the audience’s attention throughout the ark’s forthcoming voyage. This necessitates not just a departure from the text of Genesis, but a direct contradiction of it.

The Bible tells us that all three of Noah’s sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), were accompanied onto the ark by their wives (Chapter 7, Verse 13, of Genesis). On screen, Shem has his destined bride in Ila (Emma Watson), an orphan Noah and his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), long ago rescued and adopted. But Ham has no spouse, and Noah systematically thwarts his efforts to acquire one, while Japheth is barely a teenager.

Noah, it emerges, believes that the only reason he and his relatives have been rescued by God is so that they can keep the animals safe during the flood. Having seen to all the other creatures’ survival, it will then be wicked humanity’s destiny to die out, restoring the natural world to a pure and innocent state.

This ultra-environmentalist outlook not only puts Noah at odds with Ham but, through a late-blooming crisis not to be outlined for fear of a spoiler, with everyone else on board except Japheth. Since Noah will stop at nothing to carry out the apparently anti-life mission the Deity has entrusted to him, what we are left with, for the time being at least, is not a model of faith but an image of unbalanced zealotry.

All this is somewhat mitigated, and explained away, before the closing credits. And Aronofsky’s script, penned in collaboration with Ari Handel, approaches its weighty themes of righteousness and evil, punishment and redemption, with due seriousness.

But, taken together with the elements listed below, the movie’s dramatic deviations from its inspired source material mean that young viewers would be better directed, initially at least, to more literal-minded adaptations, rather than this very free variation on a theme.

The film contains much stylized violence with minimal gore, an off-screen encounter that may be premarital, distant partial nudity and some mild sensuality. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13, parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

 

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Padua to honor ‘The Blind Side’ inspiration at annual dinner

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WILMINGTON – Leigh Anne Tuohy, the inspiration behind the hit motion picture “The Blind Side,” will be the honoree at fifth annual Padua Academy Dinner in Honor of Women’s Achievement, which will be held April 10 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

Tuohy is the adoptive parent of Michael Oher, an offensive tackle with the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans. He signed with the Titans in mid-March after spending the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. Oher was homeless in Memphis when he moved in with Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and their two children. Read more »

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Cardinal praises Philippines’ peace accord with Muslim rebels

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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ newest cardinal was among 1,000 guests who witnessed the peace agreement between the government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo’s archdiocese in the southern island of Mindanao includes the main administrative camp for the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A number of ranking members of the front attended Oblate-run Notre Dame University, where the cardinal served as president. They have noted his long-standing empathy and understanding of the plight of the Muslims.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces take a break during a show of force inside Camp Darapanan in southern Philippines March 27. The Philippines and its largest Muslim rebel group signed a final peace pact, ending about 40 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people in the country’s South. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Cardinal Quevedo told reporters on the sidelines March 27 that he admired the determination of negotiators for the rebels and the government and “also their wisdom because the Bangsamoro has finally achieved their own fundamental aspiration for self-determination.”

In a speech, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, called the pact “the grandest articulation of our aspirations.” He said it finally restored the identity, powers and resources of all residents of Muslim-majority Mindanao, called “Bangsamoro.”

“These three things, which have been ours since time immemorial, unjustly taken through colonization and occupation, are now returned to us,” Murad said at the ceremony on the grounds of the presidential palace in Manila.

For nearly 40 years, the Muslim rebels fought for the right to self-determination, engaging government troops in skirmishes and forcing millions of residents to flee their homes. Approximately 120,000 people were killed.

The pact, which officials call the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro” creates a self-governing region in Mindanao.

The region to be called Bangsamoro, a name coined by the rebels for all residents of Muslim-majority Mindanao, including Christians and indigenous peoples, will have a parliamentary form of government. It will be able to generate its own revenues, collect a significant portion of royalties from natural resources in the area and form its own law enforcement, among wide-ranging powers. The central government in Manila will maintain national defense, currency and postal services.

This new region will supersede an existing autonomous region that was born out of a 1990s peace pact between the government and a smaller Muslim rebel group. That region, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the poorest part of the country, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino called it a “failed experiment.”

“The huge imbalance between Muslim Mindanao and the rest of the country served to breed resentment and consequently insurgency,” Aquino said at the signing. “When the Bangsamoro people felt that they had no redress within the system, they then tried to address their grievances from outside of the system. We must therefore give them a significant boost up, so that they can catch up.”

Officials say the economic problems that plague the region now are a long way from the Christian versus Muslim conflict that dominated the struggles in the southern Philippines during Spanish colonial times through the early part of the 20th century.

Still, Cardinal Quevedo acknowledged there was room for even better understanding on the part of Catholics in the region.

“I know that living together with Muslims, which has been part of my long life in Mindanao, is something I appreciate very much, when I used to have my Muslim students interact with me at the university,” said Cardinal Quevedo. “So at the grass-roots level, in the marketplace, be friends with one another. Pray for one another. Live together in the community, and all those biases and mistrust can be somehow significantly reduced.”

“Let’s pray for the success of this peace agreement that promises lasting and just peace in our region of Mindanao,” said Cardinal Quevedo.

In a statement, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the conference rejoiced “with our countrymen” over the signing. He urged the implementers of the agreement to pay special attention to “those who feel marginalized,” including smaller rebel factions not happy with the deal, and he pushed for development in the affected region.

“The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further. The people of Mindanao have been suffering for decades,” said Archbishop Villegas.

By Simone Orendain

 

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Pope asks confessors to be neither too strict nor too lax

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Don’t be too lax or too harsh during confession and always make sure people know when the sacrament of reconciliation is available, Pope Francis said.

“Let’s not forget that the faithful often struggle to take part in the sacrament, both for practical reasons and because of the natural difficulty in confessing one’s own sins to another person,” he said March 28.

A priest hears a confession in 2013 at Christ the King Church in Irondequoit, N.Y. Don’t be too lax or too harsh during confession and always make sure people know when the sacrament of reconciliation is available, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

“For that reason we have to work really hard on who we are, on our humanity, so as to never be an obstacle, but to always help people be drawn to mercy and forgiveness,” he told confessors and other participants attending a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.

The pope thanked the court for its work in helping form “good confessors” who are aware of how important their ministry is.

The power to forgive sins comes from the Holy Spirit, therefore, priests must be “men of the Holy Spirit” who are both tender and strong as they give witness and proclaim the new life offered by the Lord’s resurrection, the pope said.

“This witness is read on the face, you hear it in the voice of the priest” who administers the sacrament of reconciliation, he added.

Because the way the priest speaks and reacts is important, he must welcome penitents, “not with the attitude of a judge and not like a simple friend, but with the charity of God, with the love of a father who sees his son returning and then heads his way, like the shepherd who has found his lost sheep.”

“Mercy is the heart of the Gospel. It’s the good news that God loves us, that he always loves sinful humanity and, with this love, he attracts people to him and invites them to conversion.”

During confession, priests need to avoid the two opposite extremes of being too strict and too lax, the pope said. “Neither of the two does good” or helps the penitent, he said.

“Mercy truly listens with the heart of God and wants to accompany the soul along the road of reconciliation.

“Confession is not a prosecuting court but an experience of forgiveness and mercy,” the pope said.

A priest’s heart should find itself easily moved, he said, “not out of sentimentalism or mere emotion,” but because he has the Lord’s mercy in his “guts.” A confessor has the dual role of a doctor who heals and a judge who absolves, he added.

Priests must offer lots of quality time to the sacrament of reconciliation, he said. A priest who does not spend time tending to his lost sheep “is like a father who forgets about his lost child and neglects waiting for him,” the pope said.

For that reason, it is important to clear away the many difficulties often associated with confession, which is “an immense gift” the Lord gave his church, he said.

“It’s very important that every diocese and parish community take particular care in celebrating this sacrament of forgiveness and salvation.”

A top priority is for every parish to let people know when they can find a priest, the pope said. Churches run by religious communities should especially be able to guarantee “a constant presence of confessors,” he added.

 

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‘Sabotage’ blends foul-mouthed machismo with repellant gore

March 28th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

Excessive violence and a flawed moral outlook characterize “Sabotage,” an action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger directed and co-written by David Ayer.

When I’s not showing us the pools of blood or mashed-up body parts left behind by murder victims, Ayer’s film, as penned with Skip Woods, revels in a foul-mouthed machismo that’s almost as repellant as the gore.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in a scene from the movie “Sabotage.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive.

Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharton, the head of an elite DEA unit made up of skilled but crooked agents, all of whom, like their boss, sport a defining nickname.

So we’re introduced to James “Monster” Murray (Sam Worthington), Julius “Sugar” Edmonds (Terrence Howard), Eddie “Neck” Jordan (Josh Holloway) and Joe “Grinder” Phillips (Joe Manganiello). Only Murray’s wife, Lizzie (Mireille Enos), the sole woman in the ensemble, seems content to be known by her original moniker.

The opening scenes take the group inside a drug cartel safe house where they kill everyone in sight, then skim $10 million off the much larger horde of cash on hand, stowing their loot in a sewer pipe. When they go to retrieve their ill-gotten gains, however, the money is missing. Things go further awry when it turns out that the authorities are on to the theft and have launched an investigation of Wharton’s team.

Though this probe peters out, a far worse threat develops when various members of the squad begin to turn up dead, slaughtered in spectacularly brutal ways. As Caroline (Olivia Williams), the straight-arrow local police detective assigned to the case, works diligently to get to the bottom of it all, the remaining operatives wonder whether it’s the cartel they robbed that’s hunting them down or one of their own.

With Caroline the lone exception, greed and vengeance are the dark motives guiding everyone’s behavior within the seamy environment of this sometimes suspenseful but ethically unanchored movie.

Visits to strip clubs and the trading of coarse insults constitute the favored tension-relieving pastimes for Wharton and his crew. Wharton also proves willing to use the seduction of an acquaintance as a tool in advancing his schemes, though the outcome of this, unlike the decadent doings in the pole-clinging establishments the boys frequent, is only implied.

The script plays a familiar trick by offering us a set of villains so evil that almost any revenge exacted against them will be calculated to yield the audience visceral satisfaction. Though something in the way of a civilizing limit is eventually drawn in this area, at least through the dialogue, it will register as too little too late.

The film contains pervasive bloody, sometimes gruesome violence, including torture and extreme images of gore, graphic sexual activity, some of it aberrant, upper female nudity, drug use, much sexual and scatological as well as brief irreverent humor, several uses of profanity and relentless rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

 

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School and student news

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Statue at Christ the Teacher honors deceased student

GLASGOW – Christ the Teacher School has a new addition, a statue of St. Joseph, that was dedicated in the memory of a student who died last Aug. 12 in a motor-vehicle accident near Smyrna. Read more »

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Padua cheerleaders add national titles to win in state competition

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WILMINGTON – The Padua Academy cheerleading team has been around for just three years, yet the squad has found success almost immediately. Read more »

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Ursuline students contribute to Leader Dogs for the Blind

By

Staff reporter

WILMINGTON — The first-graders at Ursuline Academy’s Lower School demonstrated the meaning of the school’s motto, “Serviam,” on March 24, presenting an organization that trains service dogs for the blind with a check for $368.

The students raised the money on their own both at homes and by donations for a dress-down day at school.

Lion Carroll Jackson greets students in Ursuline’s Lower School, where he visited March 24 with his leader dog Hunter. First-graders raised money to support the Lions Club’s effort to raise money for the training of guide dogs for the blind. wwwDonBlakePhotography.com

Layla Adeleke said she earned her money by helping with the laundry and other chores at home.

“It was important to help the people who are blind,” she said.

The fundraising was part of the Serviam Project in the early childhood program and Lower School. Each grade is assigned a month in which it runs a service initiative “in order to create a sense of empathy for others and empower our children to see that they can make a difference,” the school said.

The first- through third-grade students took some time out of class to hear from Carroll Jackson, a field representative for Leader Dogs for the Blind. He and his dog, Hunter, travel the country explaining what service dogs do and why they are important. The Lions Club of Delaware, which works with Leader Dogs, sponsored the visit.

Jackson, who lives in Illinois, told the students he used to be a teacher, principal and superintendent. “All of my pupils were just like me. They couldn’t see a thing.”

Two of the biggest obstacles for the blind are communication and mobility, he said. When you are blind, you tend to rely on the other four senses. His students learned in which direction they were walking from feeling the sun on a certain side of their bodies, tapping a cane to detect objects or to listen for echoes, or by memory.

One of the ways they overcome those obstacles is with dogs like Hunter, who are trained extensively to help with tasks that most of us take for granted, like crossing a street or finding a chair. Jackson’s students were able to get a guide dog of their own when they turned 16.

“They could learn to use their dog when they were in high school,” he said.

The dogs start training as puppies and have a “career” that lasts eight to 10 years, Jackson said.

One thing that really impressed first-grader Leah Horgan about Hunter was that “he knows how to cross streets and knows when to stop.”

Leah said she made her bed, cleaned her room and shoveled snow to earn money to give the Leader Dog program.

Jackson took a few questions from the students. One wanted to know why, if he was blind, he wore glasses.

“My wife says it makes me look more intelligent,” he joked. The real reason, he said, is that they make him more inconspicuous.

Hunter and other service dogs are found wherever people can go. He accompanies Jackson to restaurants and hotels, and “he’s been on 409 airplane flights.”

Throughout the presentation, Hunter appeared to be taking it all in stride, laying silently on the stage next to Jackson. The students learned that they should never pet a service dog. That was no problem for Layla.

“I’m allergic to dogs,” she said.

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Pope and Obama discuss religious freedom, life issues, immigration

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In their first encounter, Pope Francis received U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican March 27 for a discussion that touched on several areas of tension between the Catholic Church and the White House, including religious freedom and medical ethics.

During an unusually long 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed “questions of particular relevance for the church in (the U.S.), such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in statement.

U.S. President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Pope Francis as he receives a copy of the pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), during a private audience at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

The mentions of religious freedom and conscientious objection presumably referred to the contraception mandate in the new health care law, which has become a major source of conflict between the administration and the church.

According to the Vatican statement, Pope Francis and Obama also had an “exchange of views on some current international themes, and it was hoped that in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.”

In September, Pope Francis launched a high-profile campaign against Obama’s proposal for military strikes to punish the government of President Bashar Assad for its presumed use of chemical weapons. The pope wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of a G-20 summit, decrying the “futile pursuit of a military solution,” and a few days later led a prayer vigil for peace in Syria that drew some 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.

The Vatican did highlight two points of harmony with Obama in the discussions: immigration reform, on which the administration’s position is closer to that of U.S. bishops than that of the Republican opposition; and a “common commitment to the eradication of trafficking in human persons in the world.”

Later in the day, at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Obama said he had spent the “largest bulk of the time” with the pope discussing “issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality” and the “challenges of conflict and how elusive peace is around the world,” particularly in the Middle East.

Obama said Pope Francis “did not touch in detail” on the contraception mandate, but that in the president’s subsequent meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, “we discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was (sic) observed in the context of applying the law.”

“I pledged to continue to dialogue with the U.S. conference of bishops to make sure we can strike the right balance” on the issue, Obama said.

At the end of their talk, Pope Francis gave Obama a bound edition of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), published last November. The gift prompted the president to respond: “You know, I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I am deeply frustrated, and I am sure it will give me strength and will calm me.”

“I hope,” the pope replied with a laugh.

In a December speech, Obama quoted a passage from the exhortation in which the pope lamented: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Pope Francis also presented Obama with a pair of bronze medallions, one commemorating the 17th-century construction of the colonnades around St. Peter’s Square; another portraying an angel that brings together the world’s North and South in “solidarity and peace founded on justice.”

“This gift is from the pope,” Pope Francis said of the first medallion. “But this other one is from Jorge Bergoglio. When I saw it, I said: “I’ll give to Obama, it’s the angel of peace.”

The president’s gift to the pope was a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House garden, in a box made from reclaimed wood used to build Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Catholic cathedral in the United States.

“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” Obama said.

“Of course,” the pope replied.

Organizers of the September 2015 World Meeting of Families have voiced hopes that Pope Francis will attend that event, which could be the occasion for a state visit to the U.S.

“I invited and urged him to come to the United States, telling him that people would be overjoyed to see him,” Obama said later.

Obama’s visit to the Vatican came in the course of a six-day international trip that included stops in the Netherlands and Belgium and was scheduled to end in Saudi Arabia. The day before his meeting with Pope Francis, Obama met with European Union and NATO officials in Brussels, where he discussed economic and strategic responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier in the month.

The president’s motorcade entered the Vatican a few minutes after 10 a.m., under cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50s. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, greeted him in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, then led him upstairs to the pope’s private library, followed by Obama’s entourage, which included U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; Susan Rice, the national security adviser, and Ambassador Ken Hackett, the U.S. envoy to the Holy See.

The pope greeted the president outside his library a few minutes before the appointed time of 10:30.

“Wonderful meeting you, I’m a great admirer,” Obama told the pope as they shook hands.

Inside the library, the two leaders sat down on either side of the pope’s desk, each with an interpreter beside him. Through his interpreter, Msgr. Mark Miles, the pope, who spoke in Spanish, could be heard telling the president: “I’d like you to feel really at home here.”

During an extended handshake at the end of the meeting, Obama told the pope: “My family has to be with me on this journey. They’ve been very strong. Pray for them. I would appreciate it.”

After his meeting with the pope, Obama met with Cardinal Parolin for more than half an hour. Kerry, Rice and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign minister, also participated in that meeting.

The Obama administration requires that nearly all health insurance plans, including those offered by most Catholic universities and agencies, cover sterilizations, contraceptives and some abortion-inducing drugs, all of which are forbidden by the church’s moral teaching. The U.S. bishops have strenuously opposed the contraception mandate and have rejected existing exemptions as inadequate.

Legalized abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, which Obama supports and Catholic teaching forbids, have also been sources of conflict between the president and the church since the start of his administration, and were among the major topics of discussion during Obama’s 2009 visit with Pope Benedict XVI.

 

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Pope Francis, Obama meet privately at Vatican for 50 minutes

March 27th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis received U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican March 27. In what was their first encounter, the two leaders spoke in private for more than 50 minutes, an extraordinarily long time for such a meeting.

Pope Francis walks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a private audience at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Gabriel Bouys, pool via Reuters)

At the end of their talk, Pope Francis gave Obama a bound edition of his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), published last November. The gift prompted the president to respond: “You know, I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I am deeply frustrated, and I am sure it will give me strength and will calm me down.”

“I hope,” the pope replied with a laugh.

In a December speech, Obama quoted a passage from the exhortation in which the pope lamented: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Pope Francis also presented Obama with a pair of bronze medallions, one portraying an angel that brings together the world’s North and South in “solidarity and peace founded on justice”; and another commemorating the 17th-century construction of the colonnades around St. Peter’s Square.

The president’s gift to the pope was a selection of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House garden, in a box made from reclaimed wood used to build Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Catholic cathedral in the United States.

“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” Obama said.

“Of course,” the pope replied.

Organizers of the September 2015 World Meeting of Families have voiced hopes that Pope Francis will attend that event, which could be the occasion for a state visit to the U.S.

Obama’s visit to the Vatican came in the course of a six-day international trip that included stops in the Netherlands and Belgium and was scheduled to end in Saudi Arabia. The day before his meeting with Pope Francis, Obama met with European Union and NATO officials in Brussels, where he discussed economic and strategic responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier in the month.

The president’s motorcade entered the Vatican a few minutes after 10 a.m., under cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50s. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, greeted him in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, then led him upstairs to the pope’s private library, followed by Obama’s entourage, which included U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry; Susan Rice, the national security adviser, and Ambassador Ken Hackett, the U.S. envoy to the Holy See.

The pope greeted the president outside his library a few minutes before the appointed time of 10:30.

“Wonderful meeting you, I’m a great admirer,” Obama told the pope as they shook hands.

Inside the library, the two leaders sat down on either side of the pope’s desk, each with an interpreter beside him. Through his interpreter, Msgr. Mark Miles, the pope, who spoke in Spanish, could be heard telling the president: “I’d like you to feel really at home here.”

During an extended handshake at the end of the meeting, Obama told the pope: “My family has to be with me on this journey. They’ve been very strong. Pray for them. I would appreciate it.”

After his meeting with the pope, Obama met for more than half an hour with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. Kerry, Rice and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign minister, also participated in that meeting.

 

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