August 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The relationship between Barack Obama and Pope Francis is cozy and affirming, according to the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, and the Holy Father thinks highly of the U.S. president.
Ken Hackett said it was Obama’s March 2014 visit to the Vatican, when the two bonded over perceived shared priorities, that helped seal the deal on the Pontiff coming to Washington, D.C., during his visit to the United States next month.
“Yes, the President invited him and more importantly, in the context of that invitation, the dynamic, the personal interaction, was more than warm,” Hackett said. “They hit it off on a number of issues including, I think, migration, poverty, exclusion, and people falling through the cracks.”
Hackett wasn’t in the room for the first part of the meeting between the leader of the free world and the head of the Catholic Church, but he still speculated on what occurred there in an interview earlier this month with the Jesuit magazine America.
“Those are the kind of things that I believe they were discussing behind closed doors,” he said. “As soon as we were let in immediately afterwards, you could feel the atmosphere in the room was very positive.”
Obama and the positive interaction he had with the Holy Father fostered a bond between the two men, according to Hackett.
“So, somehow Pope Francis had a very positive view of President Obama and what he is trying to do, and they clicked,” he continued. “And I think that led to his decision to come.”
Pope Francis will come to the U.S. in September for the international triennial World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. He will also visit the White House, speak before the United Nations, and be the first pope to address the U.S. Congress.
Hackett, named by Obama to his post in June 2014, had a long career at the contentious international relief agency of the U.S. Bishops, CRS, including some 18 years as its executive director. CRS has faced years of criticism for its continued partnerships with groups that are pro-abortion and homosexual, or supportive of other agencies and initiatives that violate Catholic doctrine.
Hackett encouraged Obama to strive to make a human connection with the Pontiff before moving on to other issues, he said, something apparently successful as gauged by Obama’s demeanor after the meeting.
“As you know well, the private conversation went on for a very long time,” Hackett stated. “And coming out of the Pope’s meeting Obama was refreshed. He was happy!”
“Everything I have heard from the White House since he got back says the president was overjoyed with the visit,” he said.
Pope Francis and Obama are not going to waste time discussing any differences they may have, Hackett said, choosing rather to focus on the areas where they see eye-to-eye, which according to him are “poverty, religious freedom, concern about persecuted Christians and minorities, and really a reach for peace.”
“Then climate, of course,” he said.
“There are differences on the domestic side. We don’t deal with a whole lot of those differences, thank God!” Hackett said. “I think they would not find unanimity of opinion on some of the issues, on gay marriage.”
“But they’re not going to discuss differences; I cannot believe they will go into differences,” he continued. “Obama wants to do something domestically on reform of the minimum wage, on the criminal justice system, and on climate change.”
Hackett took another opportunity to say agreement would not be found between the Pope and Obama on homosexual “marriage”.
“We agree to differ on things like gay marriage,” he said, “but really there are not a lot of other such issues.”
Pope Francis’ favorability has taken a precipitous drop in the U.S. in the weeks leading up to his U.S. visit, currently down 17 percentage points to 59 percent approval from 76 percent in early 2014, according to Gallup.
Christians and conservatives fueled that drop, the poll said, but his image has also taken a hit among liberals and moderates, with the favorable rating among liberals falling 14 percentage points.
Many liberals have criticized the Holy Father for not embracing women’s ordination, permitting priests to marry, or working to change the Church’s approach to homosexuality.
While environmental activists were hoping the potential for Pope Francis to discuss “climate change” during the U.S. papal visit would solidify their assertion that man-made climate change is a moral issue, a recent AP poll showed that only 43 percent of Catholics and 39 percent of all adults said they viewed global warming a moral issue, and a very small percentage think climate change has a connection to religion or poverty.
And despite the substantial roll-out by the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops of the Pope’s recently released climate encyclical, Laudate Si’, an ABC-News report said, the survey also found that fewer than half of U.S. Roman Catholics said they knew of the Pontiff’s document.