BY Pope Benedict XVI has agreed to meet President Obama at the Vatican on July 10, the pope's spokesman said on June 24, for what would be a rare afternoon encounter arranged to accommodate Obama's travel schedule.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, stopped short of officially confirming the news of a meeting, which was first reported by Catholic News Service, but told media outlets that the pope was "willing" to meet the president on the "afternoon of July 10."
Obama will be in Italy July 8-10 to participate in a meeting of leaders of the world's eight richest nations. The Group of Eight (G8) summit will take place in the city of L'Aquila, 75 miles northeast of Rome, where an April earthquake killed nearly 300 and left some 50,000 homeless.
Although the pope ordinarily receives heads of state or government only in the mornings, Benedict will meet with Obama at 4 p.m. on the 10th, according to the CNS report, so that the president can leave for Ghana the same day.
The meeting is likely to take place shortly after the publication of a long-awaited papal encyclical on the economy, which Benedict has recently suggested will address the global financial crisis and the need for new "economic-financial paradigms" to promote "solidarity" and "human dignity."