Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 20, 2009
Global, family issues topics of pope-Harper discussion
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict and Stephen Harper had "a good long discussion about a range of topical issues," the prime minister said after his 20-minute audience with the pope July 11.
"(The pope) seemed very warm, very genial," Harper said in an interview with Canadian Catholic News.
The prime minister said, while he is not a Catholic, he regards the pope as an important moral and spiritual leader. "In my judgment, the Catholic Church is a critical bulwark of worldwide Christianity."
The pope and prime minister discussed protecting human life and the traditional family in Canada as well as development and peace abroad, the Vatican said in a statement following the meeting.
In what it labelled "a friendly conversation" between the two, the Vatican said the pair discussed international issues such as climate change, disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.
As well, they talked about Canadian issues, particularly regarding "ethical values, the defence and promotion of life, marriage and the family," the Vatican statement said.
After the meeting, Harper said, "It was an honour to meet Pope Benedict and hear his perspective on a number of important issues, including human rights and an ethical response to the global economic crisis."
The prime minister said he had expressed "deep appreciation for the holy father's moral and humanitarian leadership as an advocate of human dignity, peace and religious liberty, and for the spiritual leadership he provides to Catholics in Canada and throughout the world."
Harper told CCN that he and the pope also shared a "more personal discussion about faith and politics and the challenges that can present from time to time."
Harper is a member of the Eastgate Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Ottawa, an evangelical congregation.
But the prime minister said he and the pope did not discuss the controversy over his reception of Communion at the funeral of former Gov. Gen. Romeo LeBlanc.
A private video showed Moncton, N.B., Archbishop André Richard giving Communion to Harper, but the prime minister did not immediately consume the host. Harper denied speculation that he pocketed the host, saying that he consumed it off-camera.
The controversy was driven by "people who want to cause embarrassment in religion and drive a wedge between Protestants and Catholics," he said.
"That's whose agenda this is and that's not the pope's agenda."
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