Pope Francis tells President Obama of his concern for religious freedom in U.S.
Pope Francis and Vatican officials on Thursday told U.S. President Barack Obama they were concerned about “religious freedom” in the United States, an apparent reference to the contraception mandate in Obama’s health care plan.
Obama held nearly an hour of private talks with the pope and then the president and Secretary of State John Kerry held separate talks with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and other diplomats.
The talks included “discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church” in the United States, including “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection,” a Vatican statement said.
Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, widely opposed by Republicans, includes a provision that requires employers to cover the cost of contraception in their health insurance plans.
Catholic and other religious groups say the mandate forces them to support contraception and sterilisation in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines.
The so-called contraception mandate has been the subject of more than 100 lawsuits across the United States.
See also Obama invites pope to White House.