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 CNS Story:

OBAMA-WORLD Jul-2-2009 (460 words) With OBAMA (SECOND UPDATE). With photos. xxxn

Obama says he wants to talk with pope about aid to world's poor

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- President Barack Obama said when he meets Pope Benedict XVI July 10 he wants to talk about initiating core reforms in overseas aid and domestic policy to assure basic economic security for more people.

In a round table with religion reporters July 2 in anticipation of the meeting at the Vatican, Obama said he hopes to report to the pope about the range of commitments made by the world's leading governments at the Group of 20 summit in London in April.

He said he wants to talk about assuring that not only the poor but financially vulnerable people in the middle class are able "to live lives of dignity and security."

Obama will be in Europe to participate in a meeting of the world leaders known as the Group of Eight in L'Aquila, Italy, where he said one of his top priorities will be to get other wealthy countries to match the increased U.S. commitment to food security around the world.

He said that while he believes capitalism is the most effective means of generating wealth, one of the areas where "the Catholic Church has always been a powerful moral compass is on questions of distribution and how do we make sure that opportunities are extended to everybody."

He said that his administration "already (has) a plan in place to effectively double our resources, not only for immediate relief and foodstuffs, but also (to address) how do we work in a more intelligent way on development around agricultural self-sufficiency in many countries."

In the kind of society where opportunities are available to all "it turns out it's actually good for capitalism, because we've got people who are able to afford to support businesses because they've got some income and can operate as effective consumers."

Based upon conversations with the pope and other contacts, Obama said his impression of the pontiff is "somebody who combines a great intellect with great compassion."

The pope's work on the interfaith front in particular has been impressive, Obama said. But like himself, the pope has experienced "some of the difficulties and dangers of ... trying to bring groups together," such as occurred during Pope Benedict's recent trip to the Middle East.

Obama also said he's looking forward to speaking with the pope about seeking peace in the Middle East.

"I think that our position is going to overlap greatly with the position of the government of the Holy See," he said. "And I think we can be effective partners in trying to move the parties in a closer direction."

END


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