A Vatican spokesman revealed late Wednesday evening that Pope Francis earlier met privately with members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the group of religious sisters at the center of a high-profile legal battle over the Obamacare birth control mandate which is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Fr. Frederico Lombardi, spokesman for the Holy See, told reporters at a Washington, D.C. press conference that Francis met with the nuns as “a sign of his support” for them in their lawsuit against the Obama administration. The sisters are seeking exemption from Obamacare’s birth control mandate, which requires employers to facilitate the provision of full, copay-free coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and the so-called “morning-after pill” for their female employees – all of which the Catholic Church considers immoral.
The meeting, which was not on the pope’s publicly-released schedule of events, was held just hours after the pontiff met with President Obama at the White House. Father Lombardi did not say where, but he noted that the Little Sisters have a convent near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Pope Francis celebrated a late afternoon Mass. It is likely that he visited the order just after celebrating the liturgy.
In their public remarks at the White House, Obama spoke at length about religious freedom overseas. But Pope Francis highlighted his concerns about religious freedom right here in the U.S., where the government and the Christian faithful, including the Little Sisters, have clashed over issues like same-sex “marriage” and employer-funded birth control.