What to Expect When Pope Francis and President Obama Meet


“They give some sort of blessing,” Fogarty said. “It is not strictly a religious ceremony but there’s a religious element because the pope is the head of the Catholic Church."

4. What they’ll agree on

Pope Francis has quickly become a beloved figure to both Catholics and non-Catholics worldwide thanks to his blunt comments encouraging the governments of the world to tackle economic inequality, his own modest lifestyle, and his laid-back demeanor.

Meanwhile, politicians in the U.S., including President Obama, are moving swiftly to get on the Pope Francis bandwagon.

When the two finally meet, Obama and Pope Francis may bond over their mutual advocacy of anti-poverty policies, which Obama has cited in his speeches advocating a higher minimum wage in the U.S.

In fact, as a former community organizer whose early work in Chicago was funded by the Catholic Church, this may be the biggest point of symmetry between the two.

The war in Syria, conflict with Russia, the peace in the Middle East are also likely to be top items on the agenda in talks between Obama and Pope Francis.

5. What they’ll disagree on

The relatively brief encounter between the head of the Catholic Church and head of state in the U.S. won’t mean that difficult issues won’t come up.

In the past, popes haven’t hesitated to pass on their disapproval over American policies. Bush’s 2004 visit focused largely on a disagreement over the wars in the Middle East.

Despite some of Francis’ teaching on inequality, which have been cheered by liberals, the Catholic Church still strongly opposes abortion and Pope Francis has publicly advocated against it in the U.S.

And the birth control mandate in President Obama’s health care law has pitted his administration against the Catholic Church in the U.S., so much so that it came up when Secretary of State John Kerry met with the pope and the Vatican Secretary of State earlier this year.

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