President Obama Recalls Visiting Pope Francis During Annual Prayer Breakfast

Also Expresses Sorrow for Shooting at Jewish Community Center in Kansas

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President Barack Obama has recalled his visit to Pope Francis earlier this month, saying that his example is a reminder that we all have an obligation to live righteously and humbly.

The American head of state made his statement during the White House’s annual Easter prayer breakfast yesterday.

Addressing religious leaders from across the country, President Obama remembered the victims of the tragic shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas. A known white supremacist opened fire at the two Jewish-run facilities, killing three people.

“That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful,” the president said.  

“And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.”

The US President said the government was assisting in investigations into the shooter’s motives. “As Americans,” he said, “we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.”

Remembering Visit with Pope Francis

Speaking on the celebration of Easter, President Obama said that the season is an inspiration to follow the spirit of Jesus’ teaching and sacrifice. This spirit, he noted, was felt during his visit with Pope Francis.

“I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis,” he said.  

“Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast. He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being. But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street. He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly. Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.”

Recalling his private conversation with the Holy Father, President Obama said they addressed issues of poverty and inequality. He also said that he extended an invitation to the Pope to visit the United States.

The President also spoke on receiving a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium from Pope Francis.  “When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’”, he recalled.  

“And there is a passage that speaks to us today: “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.” And he adds: “Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

Concluding his address, President Obama thanked the religious leaders present for their work in the United States.

“I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education. You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well,” he said. (J.A.E.)

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