-- President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett says that negative publicity surrounding the Vatican’s unease with some of the guests expected at a White House welcoming ceremony has not soured the excitement of Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States.
“Oh my goodness, no,” Jarrett told ABC News when asked whether the reports of the Vatican’s restlessness has taken away from the pope’s historic trip. “There's so much excitement. I think the crowd reflects the diversity of our country. Everyone who is coming is excited about the opportunity to be in his presence, and so I think that this visit means a great deal to America.”
The Vatican last week expressed discomfort over some of the guests who are expected in attendance -- reportedly concerned by the optics that could be created if the pope is photographed with transgender activists, the first openly gay U.S. Episcopal bishop or a nun who will be on the South Lawn for the ceremony on Wednesday morning.
She stressed that the president and pope’s mutual interest in climate change, income inequality, justice and improving relations with Cuba will be “front and center” during their time together this week.
“There are many issues that the president shares in common with the pope and he looks forward to welcoming [him] here for his very first visit to the United States today, and having an impressive 15,000 group reception for him tomorrow,” she said. “It's one of the things that the president reflected on after his last visit is how easy their conversations were and they have great chemistry.”
Jarrett admits that the administration has “a lot going on” but says “everybody’s working cooperatively together” – especially the president’s fourth social secretary in six and a half years, Deesha Dyer.
“She's a rock star! Let me tell you she's been planning all of these events for a very long time, both the Pope visit, the state visit with China, as well as the UN -- all of those fall under her portfolio,” Jarrett said. “She probably has not slept in weeks. She'll probably be spending the night here tonight and she's just been performing terrifically."