Obama and benedict xvi.

A new president enters the White House in Washington – and the whole world looks on with hopeful glances. Admittedly, in addition to the general sigh of relief, more pensive tones are likely to be heard in the Vatican: Under the aegis of George W. Bush's contacts were good, despite all the disagreements that also existed. With the new president and his world views, the relationship could cool considerably.

Bush, a so-called born-again Christian, holds in high regard both John Paul II. (1978-2005) as well as Benedict XVI. personally very. In all, he met with a Catholic church leader six times – more than any U.S. president before him. The Protestant gave the current pope a warm reception at the White House in April 2008. While there had been serious differences with Rome over the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. But Bush's staunch endorsement of key points of Catholic moral teaching helped repair the relationship. Uncompromisingly, the president opposed abortion, embryonic stem cell research and so-called gay marriage.

Delicate Them That is likely to change under the new incumbent Barack Obama. The new man in the White House has already drawn heavy criticism from the ranks of U.S. Catholics in the election campaign. Unlike his predecessor, Obama supports a "right to abortion" and government funding of stem cell research. Although the lawyer and active Protestant does not personally support gay marriage, as a politician he insists on the principle of equal treatment. Nevertheless, the new Roman-American relationship got off to a promising start. On the day after his election victory, Benedict XVI congratulated him. the first African-American U.S. president. He acknowledged the "historic" dimension of Obama's victory and ared him of his prayers so that "God may support him and the beloved American people in their efforts to create a peaceful, solidary and just world". Nevertheless, the U.S. church has already let Obama know that it will take a confrontational course with his convictions on abortion and stem cell research. U.S. Curia Cardinal James Stafford, former archbishop of Denver, even criticized Obama's stance as an "aggressive, divisive, and apocalyptic vision". This difference in tone between church leadership and U.S. clergy has method, says author Massimo Franco. In his new book, Parallel Empires, he argues that the blatant criticism of the U.S. church and its threat of political prere on the new administration allowed Rome to remain friendly.

Stumbling blocks in sight Still, stumbling blocks are already in sight. In a 2007 campaign speech to abortion advocates, Obama pledged to sign the controversial Freedom of Choice Act as president. This bill aims to widely remove barriers to women seeking abortions. The bill, critics warn, would force even Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Another potential point of contention could become the recent ruling by a U.S. appeals court. It found that a lawsuit against Catholic priests for sexual abuse could extend to the Holy See – although it has the status of a sovereign state.

Unity on many ies Although Obama has not yet commented on his view of relations with the Vatican, observers say that despite disagreements, there will also be policy areas on which the two sides can agree. On the one hand, there are the Christian communities in the Middle East, which are of particular importance to both actors; on the other hand, there are the common goals of fighting poverty worldwide, combating injustice and the overdue reform of U.S. immigration law. Raymond Flynn knows how productive good relations between Rome and Washington can be. As U.S. ambassador under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, he coordinated joint humanitarian efforts between the Vatican and the U.S. government in India, Rwanda, Burundi and the Balkans. "The Vatican is very helpful to U.S. foreign policy because of its global standing, Flynn recently told U.S. media: "The Vatican is not interested in oil, or military, or economic dominance. Vatican wants peace and stability."

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Christina Cherry
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