One of the Pope’s gifts to Pres. Obama: “Dignitatis personae”

When the Pope Benedict admitted Pres. Obama into his presence today, he gave him gifts of a medal, a mosaic of St. Peter’s Square and, according to Catholic News Service Twitter feed, a copy of CDF’s instruction on bio-ethical questions Dignitatis personae.

This was not in the regular story CNS filed, however.

It might be a good thing, as a follow up to this "historic meeting", to ask the WH Press Secretary, or the President himself, if the President read what the Pope gave him.

Dignitatis personae is only a little under 10K words, after all.  Surely someone as brilliant at this President would be able to absorb Dignitatis personae in the limo between the Cortile San Damaso and the Via della Conciliazione.

According to the Catholic Herald, the best UK weekly, the Holy Father also gave the President a copy of Caritas in veritate.

Well… Caritas in veritate is nearly 28K words.  The President might need a little longer in the limo to read that.  Perhaps as far as the Campidoglio.


One Italian news broadcast says that Pres. Obama said that he would read the encyclical on the airplane.  Reuters put it this way, "Obama, who was going to the airport from the Vatican, joked to the pope when he gave him the two documents: ‘I’ll have something to read on the plane.’"

Also, according to SKY TG24 Fr. Lombardi said that Pres. Obama told the Pope that he would try to reduce the number of abortions in the USA.

In the past is was not usual for the conversation of the Pope with a head of state to be reported.

If the Vatican is saying this… well… I suppose it could be a way of vindicating the meeting and trying to holding them to.

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  1. Father Bartoloma says:

    I wonder why it was not in the CNS story.

  2. little gal says:

    I do not know if it is customary for the HF to receive visitors sitting behind a massive desk. But per a photo that was released, Obama looked like an anxious job applicant vs a head of state. The Holy Father looked like his eyes were drilling into Obama and that he had taken his full measure and found it wanting.. [I don’t know about that last part, but Pope’s usually talks with visitors at a desk in that manner. It is not unusual.]

  3. Hidden One says:

    I want to see that photo.

  4. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Who was (in the CNN video) the woman who appears to be an aide to President Obama and kisses the Holy Father’s hand? Was she part of Mr Obama’s entourage or the Holy Father’s?

  5. bryan says:

    If one gives a gift, one has the expectation that at least the recipient will acknowledge it…

    One gets the feeling though, that The Wun will just toss it out the window with a dismissive sneer as he leaves the Apostolic Palace surrounded by his retinue. It deals with issues beyond his pay grade, don’t you know?

    Found it wanting, indeed. Self-aggrandizing ‘messiah’ meets the Vicar of Christ. Cloaked in diplomatic niceities, but, nonetheless, who in that photo possesses the force of moral authority?

  6. Paul Haley says:

    Is this what one calls “taking BO to the woodshed”…with velvet gloves? Er, ah, umm, here’s two of my encyclicals you should read at your earliest convenience.

  7. Alban says:

    This was the PERFECT gift! Nothing personal, nothing invaluable, nothing irreplaceable. In short, nothing “wasted” on a non-believer. Just a no-nonsense reiteration of Catholic teaching that the president can read at any time (should he have the desire). One has to hope that the children traveling with Obama were impressed and maybe even the seeds were planted for their conversion during this trip.

    By the way, did anyone else here think Michelle was going for “nun-chic” in her attire???

  8. Chris says:

    Did anyone notice Michelle fully veiled? She’s more traditional than most Catholics these days. You rarely see women veiled at “stadium masses.”

  9. Veritas says:

    Lawyers are quite good at digesting documents. Politicians gut them to confirm their own prejudices. No doubt the lawyer turned politician did both.

  10. Alban says:

    Andrew I’m not sure the woman belonged to any particular entourage. She was a translator for this occasion (as was the Cardinal as a backup). It really is too bad that the POTUS scrapes the floor for any Mohammedan king, but couldn’t show the proper respect to the Pope. Pelosi probably simply shook his hand too.

  11. P. McGrath says:


    You can see the pictures here and here on Rocco, if you insist.

    Further, there is this line in the Catholic News Service story: “Pope Benedict told the president, ‘A blessing on all your work and also for you.‘”

    You KNOW how this will be interpreted: that Pope Benedict NOW APPROVES of Obama’s cheerleading for the Culture of Death. That was the whole point of the liberal gushing story that Father Z posted yesterday.


    For the Culture of Life, this is a disaster equal to the Notre Shame scandal.

  12. Matthew says:

    From Reuters:

    Obama, who was going to the airport from the Vatican, joked to the pope when he gave him the two documents: “I’ll have something to read on the plane.”

  13. I roundly condemn abortion but I must say that there seems to be a mob mentality building up here with people trying to out do each other in insulting the President. Frankly I think he’s got one heck of a lot more class than all of you (by you I mean all those who get off on venting their spleen with these childish insults).

  14. Michael says:

    From all of the video I have seen, it does not appear that the Pope was overly friendly. This is nothing like taking a walk in the garden, as he did with George Bush.

    The mainstream news seems to be downplaying the visit. I wonder if that could indicate it didn’t go as planned on the Obama side?

    There is video of the meeting at:

    And pictures of Michelle’s veil at:

  15. Michael, walkking heads of state around the Vatican gardens entirely out of the ordinary. It was meant as a compliment to Bush (who was soon to leave Office) for his stand onsocial issues.

  16. anson says:

    To answer Father Bartoloma, as the chief editor of what gets admitted for printing in all USCCB articles, I and Archbishop Bugnini decided that it would be omitted because, well just because. To put it simply, “There is nothing to see here, folks, so just move along.”

  17. TNCath says:

    P. McGrath wrote, “You KNOW how this will be interpreted: that Pope Benedict NOW APPROVES of Obama’s cheerleading for the Culture of Death. That was the whole point of the liberal gushing story that Father Z posted yesterday.
    AND THE IMAGE REINFORCES THIS.For the Culture of Life, this is a disaster equal to the Notre Shame scandal.”

    Ummm, no. The Pope’s meeting with the President was no more approving of the President’s policies than was Christ’s association with sinners and tax collectors. Regardless of what the media or even Sister Joan Chittister might say, this meeting was to meet President Obama as a head of state, not to celebrate and honor him as Notre Shame did. This was the Pope’s opportunity to personally enlighten instruct the President on the Culture of Life. I’m glad it took place.

    While it is unlikely that this meeting will change the President’s positions on life issues or anything else, it was an important meeting for the Holy Father, whose giving the President a copy of “Dignitatis personae” and “Caritas in veritate” is his way of “drawing the line in the sand.”

  18. RBrown says:

    The AP story mentions obliquely that Obama received a copy of Dignitatis Humanae:

  19. jpoppe says:

    Interesting, Hugo Chavez hands the President a socialist manifesto written by Hugo himself that has only earthly whims and ideas and the other political party screams see, see, Obama took it, he is a Socialist. Now the Holy Father passes some truth onto our President and we shall see how this plays out. The Chavez book was specifically political but was assumed to be taken as gospel. The Holy Father’s is eternal but you can be assured it will be considered political.

    Blessings Jpoppe

  20. cjl says:

    David: I totally agree with you!

    I think President Obama (he is the legitimate President elected) was humble and good willed towards Our Holy Father. And Our Holy Father is trying to talk him into his conscience, but at the same time respects President Obama like a Christian any fellow human being who is likewise a creature of God whether Chrisitian or not, or whether pro abortion or against it.

    I’m no Obama-Fan, but I would like to remind people to be fair.

  21. Nicholas says:

    P. McGrath:

    Giving the President a platform of honor to propound his ideas, as Notre Dame did, is in no way equivalent to a meeting where the Pope a) was obviously in control, b) extended no unusual courtesy to a foreign head of state, and c) gave the President copies of two documents that explicitly condemn some of his policies. And for myself, I’m glad the Vicar of Christ imparted his blessing; it may be the moment of grace he needs to change his problematic ideas.

  22. Subvet says:

    “Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove.” comes to mind for some reason. The Holy Father isn’t going to slap B.O. upside the head. Giving him the two documents cited will more emphatically state the true position of the Church for our Chief Executive than a verbal dressing down would. As another commentor stated, it draws an appropriate line in the sand.

  23. P. McGrath says:

    The point is not that the Pope met with this particular President. The point is that PICTURES WERE RELEASED of this event.

    The GRAPHICAL SYMBOLISM of THIS PARTICULAR President meeting the Pope is: “Pope Benedict approves of Obama’s policies on the life issues.”

    As for the gifts of Caritas in veritate and Dignitatis personae: quite useless. The President knows perfectly well what they represent; they will go into his recycling bin.

    Subtlety was not needed here; in-your-face was needed here. Jeremiah knew when it was needed, and Daniel knew when it was needed, and Pius XI and Cardinal Pacelli knew when it was needed.

    The point is not what one said or gave to the other; the point is that OBAMA’S MEDIA SUPPORTERS will interpret this meeting in the way that most favors the Culture of Death. They should not have been allowed that “out.” Sometimes that means whacking the donkey on the face with a two-by-four.

  24. Alban says:

    McGrath you are way off here. The fact that all media are reporting that the Pope spoke on the church’s stance on human life and exhorted Obama to reduce the number of abortions in the US, AS WELL AS handing him gifts which restate/reinforce the church’s position all point to the fact that the church is trying to make it’s point on Obama’s policies and presidency. You don’t seem to be able to understand the Pope, the Vatican or their politics here. But the message doesn’t seem to be lost on anyone else. So just relax.

  25. “Lombardi said the pope was “very impressed” by Obama and that the pontiff was “extremely satisfied” with the talks”.

    The above quote is from the article that Michael (above) was good enough to post along with some warm, even jocular pictures of the Pope and the President. Not at all like what Little Gal (above) was trying to see.

    The Holy Father is nothing if not a gentleman and he knows how to disagree without being diagreeable. So, obviously, does the President.

    At the same time the Pope was very clear on the matter of abortion and on other matters concerning bio-ethics even going so far as to send some reading for the President to do.

    As well, the two men found much in common and that is to the good. It is certainly good for Church and State to co-operate where possible.

    The Holy father knows that you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinager and no doubt he will be praying that the President sees the light and has the courage to follow it.

    Wouldn’t that be the constructive thing for us all to do?

  26. McGrath said: Sometimes that means whacking the donkey on the face with a two-by-four”.

    And that would have accomplished exactly what, McGrath? Apart from obviously supplying you and others like you with great personal satisfaction, what would it have accomplished?

  27. Nicholas says:

    Pictures are made and released for every single meeting the Pope has with heads of state, with ambassadors, with Orthodox bishops, with Protestant clergy; it’s standard procedure. It doesn’t matter if it’s this particular President; it doesn’t matter how his spin doctors may or may not work with the pictures; this is no defeat for advancing a culture of life, nor is it Notre Dame, part 2.

  28. Rev. Dr. Mike says:

    Veritas, has the best take on the gifts from the Pope. The Pope played into the hands of very smart folks from the White House and gave them what they need; especially at the next Catholic news reporters gathering.

    Now all The President and any of the troops; has to do is quote from the gifts…..thus the loving Republicans along the border states and elsewhere; who have no respect for human beings, and life of those coming across the border: will blame the Catholic Pope and Bishops. (for the all illegals;spending money on feeding folks and the New World Order)

  29. mpm says:

    Alban, David O’Rourke, Nicholas,

    I agree with all your statements.

    It is our role to pray for the Pope and his intentions. Let’s let him “run”
    the Church, so to speak.

  30. Ann says:

    I think that this Pope has a lot of class and is very wise in how he handled this visit. Giving the president these documents sends a good and clear message that Church teaching is not for negotiation. I think Pope Benedict XVI was very savvy and clever with this selection of documents as gifts.

    I’m pleased as punch with how the Pope handled this visit.

  31. Alban says:

    Rev “Dr” Mike, I understand you and your little heretic cult think you have the truth, but you do not. When we want to hear from the heretic regarding our Pope, we’ll ask for it.

  32. leutgeb says:

    Digitatis Personae just described on the BBC1 10 o’clock News as,’ a booklet describing the Pope’s opposition to abortion.’ Strange choice of words.

  33. Cel says:

    I think it sends a very forceful message that the Holy Father gave him these two particular documents. Almost like, “Here, you have some homework to do, son.” Now lets hope that Obama actually reads them, and he just might since some reporter some where might ask him about them. Any real change is unlikely but you never know, perhaps it will plant a seed. Perhaps we could offer some Rosaries for the President’s heart to be open to reading them and hearing there message as he flies home. Many miracles are associated with the Rosary afterall.

  34. elmo says:

    I don’t see why the Vatican would have to vindicate this meeting in any way, any more than it would have had to vindicate any other meeting with a head of state.

  35. Maureen says:

    Re: the gift of documents —

    “Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage among his books. For to you kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned with the flick of a finger.”

    — Gordon R. Dickson, The Tactics of Mistake.

  36. Maureen says:

    Re: mantillas and the Pope —

    The whole black mantilla, black dress, long sleeves thing is traditional protocol for women meeting the Pope at an up-close audience.

    Re: non-Catholic mantilla-wearing Pope-visiting women —

    There are a lot of non-Catholic women who have the picture of Jackie Kennedy visiting the Pope in their heads, as a sort of ur-look. Now, Laura Bush had a mantilla that her sister-in-law gave her, so that was pretty natural. I think Michelle kinda got caught up in the Ultimate Church Lady spirit, because she has a Big Mantilla the way some church ladies have Big Hats.

    Here’s Nancy Reagan at JPII’s house:

    I don’t know if Mamie Eisenhower visited Pope John XXIII with President Eisenhower or not, and I don’t think I’ve seen any pictures of Rosalynn, Lady Bird, Betty, or Patricia with the Pope.

  37. Maureen says:

    Er, make that “Rosalind”.

  38. Terry says:

    “Pelosi probably simply shook his hand too.”

    Pelosi actually kissed his hand when she greeted him at the White House during his US tour. I know-I watched it happen!

    Even Pelosi knows procedure, apparently. Too bad St. Obah did not.

  39. Terry says:

    Correction: The ring, which is upon his hand.

  40. Liam says:


    You got Mrs Carter’s Christian name right the first time.

    Photo of the Nixons with Pope Paul VI:

  41. Paul says:

    RE: Michelle’s attire.

    Shouldn’t we be all upset that her skirt did not end below the knee?

    Just sayin’….

  42. Liam says:


    But it was below the knee:


    Btw, Eishenhower had an audience with John XXIII in December 1959 at the start of his big goodwill world tour; I don’t see a photo including Mamie.

    JFK had an audience with Paul VI the day after the latter’s coronation – JFK’s arrival in Rome was famously delayed to avoid attendance at the funeral of John XXIII and the coronation of Paul VI.

    LBJ had an audience with Paul VI in December 1963; I don’t see a photo with Lady Bird.

    The Nixons’ audience was in September 1970.

    Ford had an audience with Paul VI in June 1975.

    The Carters had an audience with John Paul II in June 1980 – the photo I’ve seen of Rosalynn shows her in what looks to be a smart black pantsuit with no mantilla, but that was outside the basilica, not in the audience.

  43. Alice says:

    The First Lady’s skirt DOES end below the knee.

  44. Girgadis says:

    I, for one, think the State Department protocol officials did an excellent job
    advising Michelle Obama on what to wear to the Vatican. Perhaps they can educate some
    of our fellow Catholics on appropriate attire for Mass. If I never saw another pair
    of flip flops anywhere, but especially in church, it wouldn’t be too soon.

  45. Larry says:

    The First Lady was attired in the tradional garb for a woman meeting the Holy Father. As to kissing his ring that would be a sign of acceptance of authority and would belong to Catholics. If were done by non-catholics it would be a misuse of the symbol and in some cases rather problematic from a diplomatic point of view.

    The President seemed very happy to meet the Holy Father and the Pope seemed to genuinely enjoy the moment as well. The gifts from the Holy Father were several including a mosaic of St. Peter’s done by the office in charge of mosaics at the Vatican. In other words specially comissioned. The two books are the best gift possible for a thoughtful and thinking man which Mr. Obama is. Pope Benedict has presented the most critical documents relevant to the issues that most concern the Church and the US. It is now up to the President to read those documents which I honestly believe he will. Then it is how the Holy Spirit chooses to lead him. OUr duty is to pray and not waste time criticizing the First Lady’s dress which was perfectly proper. As was the President’s who unlike Ronald Reagan wore black and not brown.
    If your only comments concern Church Ladies it is clear you spend too much time watching SNL when you shouold be praying.

  46. Heather says:

    If the pope really wanted Obama to read it, he should loaded it on his tele-prompter.


  47. Joseph Mary Pius says:

    Speaking of protocol, I’d be interested in knowing if the following was a breach, per the Reuters article at (

    “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.'”

    Considering that the president was meeting with the Holy Father, and that countries send ambassadors not to Vatican City State, but to the Sovereign Pontiff, this seems to me to be a breach.

    Such a remark appears to drag things down to the level of negotiations between nation-states, and negates the spiritual, moral, and temporal authority of the person of the Pope.

    Furthermore, I’m sure that I heard either Pres. Obama (or someone else on his side) make some remarks to the exact same effect (“between our two countries”), not too terribly long before Mr. Obama was received in audience by the Holy Father.

    Does anyone know if this is a particularly American thing? Or is this a “new arrival” that came at the same time as the Obama Administration?

    Would be interesting research for those who want to look….

  48. josephus muris saliensis says:

    Dear Fr Z,

    The Pope’s parting comment is reported by CNS and Rocco Palmo, inter alia, with a clear implication for the ND affair, as being “I thank you for all your work, I’ll pray for you.”

    Listening to the video, he clearly does NOT say this, but “A blessing on your work; I pray for you.” It is quite clear. And Quite Different. See here

    Can you try to correct this before it gets out of hand, and indeed, is used by some to create scandal?

  49. Alice says:

    I heard the actual conversation between the Holy Father and Obama on our news report and Obama clearly thanked the Holy Father for his gifts and said (not necessarily jokingly) “I’ll have some reading material for the plane journey to Africa” or thereabouts.

    Let’s just pray for him.

  50. Marc says:

    Ad Joseph Mary Pius, I suspect that there is more than one Obama appointee in the government who (secretly or openly) subscribes to the notion that the Holy See doesn’t belong at the United Nations since it is not a proper nation state and that the US ought not to have diplomatic relations with Rome etc etc: but then I’m pretty sure that there have been such people in US administrations ever since diplomatic relations were established.

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