Leading Catholic bishops met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday 13th and had a discussed a number of issues including religious liberty, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed.
“The bishops are grateful for this opportunity for candid, cordial dialogue with the President and Vice President of the United States,” the conference said in a written statement after the meeting.
The conversation “continued the good will evident during the visit of Pope Francis,” the statement added.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. attended the meeting in the Oval Office, joined by Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, the general secretary of the conference. They met with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Among the issues discussed were religious liberty, the refugee crisis in Syria and the Middle East, religious persecution, immigration reform, and prison reform, the U.S. bishops’ conference said.
The White House confirmed that the meeting was held “to follow up on Pope Francis’ visit to the White House earlier this fall.”
Press secretary Josh Earnest noted in the White House daily press briefing that “it was the president’s intent” to talk about “the wide range of areas where there is common ground” with the “priorities” of both parties.
“Those priorities include things like climate change, immigration reform, certainly our diplomatic efforts in Iran and Cuba,” Earnest noted. “Broader issues related to social justice are priorities of the Catholic Church and are priorities shared by the administration.”
The meeting came just days after the Supreme Court decided to hear multiple challenges to the administration’s contraception mandate, including one by the Archdiocese of Washington and an appeal by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Pope Francis visited the White House and met with President Obama on Sept. 23 during his visit to the U.S. In an address to the president and a crowd of 20,000 on the White House lawn, he insisted that religious freedom “remains one of America’s most precious possessions.” He also stressed the “urgency” of responding to climate change and recognized the administration’s effort to fight air pollution.
He also made an unscheduled visit of support to the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Washington, D.C. later that day at their Jeanne Jugan Residence. “This is a sign, obviously, of support for them” in their court case, the director of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed in a press conference that evening.