The White House released Wednesday morning, Sept. 23, following a private meeting between Pope Francis and President Obama, a fact sheet expressing a commitment to “advancing shared values for a better world.”
This document addresses a number of topics – the refugee crisis, poverty and creation care, as well as a significant focus on protecting religious liberty and religious minorities.
The White House noted its mid-September provision of $75 million to aid internally displaced persons in Iraq as well as the appointment of a special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia “who will help ensure that the urgent needs of these communities are taken into consideration in our military and humanitarian planning.”
A State Department conference focused on protecting religious liberty worldwide was also highlighted.
This upcoming winter meeting “will bring together civil society and religious leaders with senior government officials to focus on mobilizing additional resources and developing practical steps to protect vulnerable religious communities.”
In addition, “the State Department is expanding training for its diplomats on how to monitor and advocate for religious freedom through both regional and Washington-based training opportunities.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, Pope Francis spoke to the U.S. public on the White House lawn, focusing on religious liberty among other topics.
He emphasized that U.S. Catholics are “concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.”
“That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions,” he added. “And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
The pope addressed a joint-session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday morning, Sept. 24, commenting on a wide range of topics, including religious liberty.
Citing religious extremism from which no tradition is immune, he emphasized that “a delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.”