President Barack Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time on Thursday and discussed “current international themes,”according to a statement from the Vatican.
The two leaders, the statement indicates, also discussed “questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform.”
The contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has been a sticking point among many Catholics, religious organizations and faith-based companies. But, in remarks after the meeting, Obama said the Pope did not raise the controversial law.
“In my meeting with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, we discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law,” Obama told reporters. “And I explained to him that most religious organizations are entirely exempt.
“Religiously affiliated hospitals or universities or NGOs simply have to attest that they have a religious objection, in which case they are not required to provide contraception although that employees of theirs who choose are able to obtain it through the insurance company,” Obama added.