(CNSNews.com) – In a welcoming ceremony at the White House for Pope Francis, President Barack said Wednesday that Americans “cherish religious liberty,” but around the world “children of God, including Christians are targeted and even killed because of their faith.”
“You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty. It was the basis for so much of what brought us together,” Obama said.
“And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty, but around the world at this very moment, children of God, including Christians are targeted and even killed because of their faith. Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship. The faithful are imprisoned, and churches are destroyed,” the president added.
“So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from intimidation,” he said.
Obama also touched on the pope’s call to fight climate change and the Syrian refugee crisis.
“Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet – God’s magnificent gift to us. We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations. Your Holiness in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example,” Obama said.
“You remind us that the Lord’s most powerful message is mercy, and that means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart – from the refugee who flees war torn lands, to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life. It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, to those who’ve suffered and those who’ve caused suffering and seek redemption,” Obama said.
The welcoming ceremony at the White House reflects “is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics,” the president said.
“It reflects as well the way that your message of love and hope has inspired so many people across our nation and around the world. So on behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America,” Obama said.
“Today we mark many firsts. Your Holiness, you’ve been celebrated as the first pope from the Americas. This is your first visit to the United States, and you are also the first pontiff to share an encyclical through a Twitter account,” the president said to laughter from the audience.
The pope’s visit allows the U.S. to “reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality” that the pope showed Obama during the president’s visit to the Vatican last year.
“It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and every faith value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America,” Obama said.