It is a slow news day in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 as a snowstorm cancelled all of President Barack Obama's plans for the day, making the big news the President's upcoming trip to meet Pope Francis set for March 27, 2014. The President's four-day trip will also include the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Obama hopes to discuss his economic plans to alleviate poverty and economic inequality with the Pope.
The White House and Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement on Tuesday, Jan. 21 delineating the President's travel plans to the Netherlands and Belgium and the President's visit with the Pope; "The President will continue on to Vatican City on March 27 to meet with His Holiness, Pope Francis. The President looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality." The visit was confirmed by the Vatican.
It is no secret that for awhile already President Obama has wanted to meet with the new Pope. Earlier in the month when Secretary of State John Kerry had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican, he supposedly lobbied the new Pontiff to meet with the U.S. President. Afterwards Kerry expressed that; "I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet with him."
Obama has shown his admiration for the Pope's views on poverty by quoting him in his speech on economic inequality last December. Obama stated at the time; "Across the developed world, inequality has increased Some of you may have seen just last week, the Pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. 'How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?' "
There are two issue that President Obama and the Pope see eye to eye on the need to eliminate or ease poverty and the need for peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians. President Obama might also discuss the peace talks with the Pope during the meeting, considering that at that point there will only be one month left in the nine month negotiations, and the Palestinians have been firm that they are unwilling to extend the talks longer. With Pope Francis' own plans to visit Israel in May President Obama may ask the Pontiff to exert his influence to make the path to peace easier.
While in the Netherlands President Obama will attend the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit on March 24-25 at The Hague, and then he will attend the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission in Belgium on March 26 before heading to Italy where the President will complete his four-day trip.