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After raising eyebrows by giving Queen Elizabeth II an iPod and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a stack of DVDs, President Obama gave Pope Benedict XVI something kind of cool, if not a little creepy: “a stole that had been placed on the remains of St. John Neumann, a 19th century Redemptorist and the first male naturalized US citizen to become a saint,” per AFP’s Laurent Lozano in his pool report.
He continues: “The Pope was to give the President a mosaic representing Saint Peter's square, an autographed copy of the encyclical ‘caritas in veritate,’ bound in white leather, and a pontifical medal.
“In front of the table where the gifts were displayed, POTUS was heard saying: ‘We'll find a place of honor for that’ (unclear what gift he was referring to). He also thanked the Pope for reading material for the flight to Ghana, in apparent reference to the Social Encyclical.”
The pope also gave Mr. Obama a document on bio-ethics called “Dignitas Personae,” which explains Vatican opposition to abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research, which the president supports.
In addition to President and Michelle Obama, and the Obamas’ daughters, the pope greeted others in Obama’s entourage: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, senior adviser David Axelrod, National Security Adviser James Jones, a Navy aide, and Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen.
“Each one of them was presented with gifts, white boxes possibly containing a pontifical medal (for the men), rosaries (for the women),” Lozano reported.
The report also noted that Mr. Gibbs, who is Catholic, “kissed the papal ring.” Kissing the ring is a sign of respect for the papacy.
In a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Ghana, Mr. McDonough revealed that Obama had asked the pope to pray for his family and for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, who is ill. Obama delivered a letter from Senator Kennedy to the pope. Kennedy is the brother of the late President John Kennedy, the first and only Catholic elected president of the United States.