The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27 at the Vatican. This will be the first meeting between the president and the Pope, and it could not come at a more precipitous moment. Across the globe and across the United States, profound questions of religious freedom and human liberty confront both leaders.
In Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, and China, Christians face daily persecution. In Africa, millions starve and millions more face threats from deadly infections and violent Jihadist movements. And in Europe, civilizational decline is marked by falling birthrates and endemic recession as the Continent slides further away from its Judeo-Christian, capitalist heritage and towards an Islamic identity that portends grave consequences for free speech and religious freedom.
Closer to home, biblical marriage is under attack, and Christian merchants and employers are being forced to provide goods, services, and health insurance that conflict with their deepest religious beliefs.
Against the backdrop of such tumult will meet two men who are unique in the historicity of their respective ascensions to office. Pope Francis was the beneficiary of Pope Benedict’s unexpected retirement, an occurrence unseen in centuries. President Obama became the first non-white to occupy the Oval office, a first in America.
Their history-making elections marked the professional culmination of lives devoted to service. Both men speak of the poor and the downtrodden, and both advocated for the marginalized before attaining high office. Both are avid writers, one about faith, the other about himself, and both command an audience of billions. Thus, their meeting is an occasion worthy of attention.
In anticipation of their meeting, here are five questions Pope Francis should ask President Obama, a fellow professing Christian.
Why are you persecuting nuns? In 1868, the Little Sisters of the Poor, known as “the begging order,” came to the United States to serve the poor. They lived out their mission without compromise until January 1, 2014. That was the day the Affordable Care Act kicked in, requiring them to provide life-ending contraceptives to their employees, or pay a hefty fine.