Friday, July 10, 2009

Pope gives Obama booklet on bioethics

By Philip Pullella and Jeff Mason

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - President Barack Obama held talks with Pope Benedict on Friday and the pontiff gave him a booklet explaining Vatican opposition to practices such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which Obama supports.

Obama told the pope Washington wanted strong relations with the Vatican.

Obama and Benedict held private talks for about 40 minutes in the pope's private frescoed study in the Vatican's apostolic palace and the president briefed him on the G8 summit which ended hours earlier in the central Italian city of L'Aquila.

The pope gave Obama, who last March lifted restrictions of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, a copy of a recent Vatican document on bio-ethics in which the Holy See explains it opposition to such practices.

"Dignitas Personae" (dignity of a person) condemns artificial fertilization and other techniques used by many couples and also says human cloning, "designer babies" and embryonic stem-cell research were immoral.

It defends life from conception to natural death.

The pope's private secretary later told reporters after the meeting: "This reading can help the president better understand the Church's position on these issues."

Obama told the pope during a picture-taking session after the private part of the audience: "We look forward to a very strong relationship between our two countries."

The pope told Obama, who is a Christian, "I pray for you..."

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