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U.S. Congress passes aid for Ukraine, sanctions on Russia

By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives easily passed bills on Thursday to provide aid to Ukraine, back a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Kiev government and impose sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Contraception debate clouds Obama's Vatican visit

US President Barack Obama spoke of his admiration for Pope Francis and invited him to the United States at their first talks on Thursday but got a reprimand for contraception clauses in his healthcare reform act. Obama said he had been "extremely moved" by the Catholic leader's message of compassion for the needy and said their conversation had focussed on the need to address "growing inequality" and to show "empathy". "His Holiness has the capacity to open people's eyes," Obama said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after his Vatican visit.

Renzi adopts 'Yes we can' for Italy on Obama visit

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday told US President Barack Obama he looked to him as "a source of inspiration and a model" and would apply his "Yes we can" slogan to Italy. "President Obama is not only the president of the United States, obviously, but for me and my team a source of inspiration and a model," Renzi said at a joint press conference with Obama. "The message 'Yes we can' applies to us in Italy today because we also want to say that it is possible to change things," said Renzi, a centre-leftist who only came to power last month.

Obama promises dialogue with Catholics on healthcare

President Barack Obama on Thursday told the Vatican he would "dialogue" with US Catholic leaders over a disputed reform that would force private employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception. "I pledged to continue to dialogue with the US Conference of Bishops" over implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Obama said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. tq/dt/jkb/lc

Obama invites Pope Francis to visit United States

US President Barack Obama on Thursday said he had invited Pope Francis to visit the United States following a historic meeting between the two leaders. "I invited and urged him to come and visit the United States, telling him that people would be overjoyed to see him," Obama said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome. tq/dt/jkb/lc

Pope, Obama agree to combat human trafficking

US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis on Thursday agreed a "common commitment" to eradicate human trafficking during a historic first meeting and discussed immigration reform, the Vatican said. Francis and Obama also underlined the need for international law to be respected in conflict zones around the world and for "a negotiated solution between the parties involved", the Vatican said in a statement. jlv/dt/lc

Obama meets Pope Francis, invites him to White House

By Philip Pullella and Jeff Mason VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Calling himself "a great admirer", President Barack Obama held nearly an hour of private talks about the global situation with Pope Francis on Thursday and invited the pontiff to visit the White House. Obama appeared at ease and joked with the pope during the parts of their first meeting that were open to reporters, at one saying he did not know how his wife and children "put up with me".

Obama meets Pope to discuss inequality

US President Barack Obama held a historic first meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday to discuss a shared agenda of fighting global inequality despite wide differences over issues like gay rights and contraception. Obama told Francis he was a "great admirer" at the start of their talks at the Vatican, which political observers said could be a bid to boost the US president's support at home among Catholic voters.

Obama invites pope to White House

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - President Barack Obama met Pope Francis for the first time on Thursday and invited the pontiff to visit the White House. Obama made the spontaneous invitation as he was giving Francis a symbolic gift of seeds from the White House garden after 50 minutes of private talks in the pope's library. "If you have a chance, you can come to the White House and you can see the garden," Obama said to the pope as he was explaining the gift in the presence of reporters.

Obama meets Pope Francis for first time

US President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis for the first time on Thursday for talks expected to focus on efforts to combat global inequality. "I'm a great admirer," Obama told the pope at the start of their meeting in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace. jlv-tq/dt/ide/yad
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