Together again, for the first time, on July 10:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to the Vatican July 10 for an audience scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

Obama will visit Italy July 8-10 to participate in the Group of Eight summit, a meeting of leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations. The meeting will be held in L’Aquila, site of a devastating earthquake in April.

“Together again,” because the Vatican has been seen as far friendlier to Obama than the American bishops, and Catholic conservatives here. At America’s blog, Michael Sean Winters tweaks the outflanked right:

Admit it, wasn’t your first impulse to call Dr. Mary Ann Glendon and ask, “If you were still the ambassador, would you show up or would you boycott?” The Cardinal Newman Society, which spent the better part of the spring telling the world that no Catholic could in good conscience share the stage with President Obama, perhaps now they will start issuing press releases entitled “Pope Creates Scandal” or “Outrage at the Vatican.” The Catholic News Agency, which featured the headline “Vatican announces Pope’s vacation without confirmation of Obama visit” just a few weeks ago, has nary a mention of the visit on its website this morning. Cat got your tongue?

Obama’s Catholic critics need to re-calibrate their message and it is difficult to see how they will compete with the pictures of Obama in the frescoed halls of the Vatican, his beautiful wife and children in tow, shaking hands with the Holy Father. Actually, in addition to shaking hands, it is traditional that the Pope will present a gift to the President. Does that count as an “honor” of the kind forbidden by the bishops’ document “Catholics in Political Life”?


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