February 19, 2009 in Nation/World

House Speaker Pelosi has audience with pope

Victor L. Simpson Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Pope Benedict XVI reacts as he loses his skullcap to a gust of wind during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI received Nancy Pelosi, one of the most prominent abortion rights politicians in America, and told her Wednesday that Catholic politicians have a duty to protect life “at all stages of its development.”

The U.S. House speaker, a Catholic, was the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the U.S. Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion.

On his fourth day in office last month, Obama ended a ban on funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option.

The Vatican’s attempts to keep the Pelosi visit low-profile displayed its obvious unease with the new U.S. administration. Benedict and Bush had found common ground in opposing abortion, an issue that drew them together despite their differences over the war in Iraq.

Wednesday’s meeting, in a small room off a Vatican auditorium after the pope’s weekly public audience, was closed to reporters and photographers.

The Vatican also said – contrary to its usual policy when the pope meets world leaders – that it was not issuing either a photo or video of the encounter, claiming the meeting was private.

A short statement from the Vatican said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi and did not mention any other subject they may have discussed besides abortion.

Pelosi, for her part, did not even mention the pope’s allusion to abortion. In a statement issued by her office, Pelosi said it was with “great joy” that she and her husband Paul met with Benedict.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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