At today’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney was pressed to explain how, exactly, President Obama has worked with Pope Benedict XVI to make the world a better place.
“On behalf of Americans everywhere, Michelle and I wish to extend our appreciation and prayers to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Michelle and I warmly remember our meeting with the Holy Father in 2009, and I have appreciated our work together over these last four years,” Obama said in a statement earlier. “The Church plays a critical role in the United States and the world, and I wish the best to those who will soon gather to choose His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s successor.”
Carney was asked when Obama found out the pope would be retiring, and if there was anything more to add beyond the noontime statement.
“I have nothing more to add. I think the president found out this morning, as we all did, about this decision, and that statement I think went out not long before I took the podium,” Carney replied.
Another reporter asked what Obama was to when he lauded his work with the pope.
“Well, look, I don’t — I think it is not a mystery to anybody who knows about the extraordinary good works that the Catholic Church does around the globe in so many ways. So I think that was part of a broader effort,” Carney said. “This administration, this country, this government works closely with the Catholic Church on some of these issues, and I believe that’s what he was talking about.”
Dozens of Catholic dioceses and institutions filed suit against the Obama administration last year over the co-payment-free birth control coverage mandate.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a Catholic, said he was surprised by Benedict’s announcement, “but I consider it another sign of his humility and good sense.”
“His pontificate has been a blessing to the world. He’s promoted peace and understanding among the world’s religious faiths. He’s defended the dignity of the human person and the universal right to religious liberty. And he’s been a strong advocate of the poor, the powerless, the unborn, the sick, and the elderly,” Ryan said.
“Pope Benedict’s outpouring of books and homilies has demonstrated his brilliant intellect. These new treasures of the Church will give light, courage, and comfort to men and women of every faith in the years ahead,” Ryan added. “Our grateful prayers go with him for physical health and spiritual strength.”