Pope Sends Signal to Obama

President Obama's mantra on agreeing to disagree was slightly muted at the Vatican Friday when Pope Benedict XVI gave Mr. Obama perhaps a not-so-subtle nudge on the issue of bioethics and abortion.

Among the items the Holy Father gave the president was a copy of a document produced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, called "An Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions."

President Obama already revealed his own answers to some of those very questions earlier this year when he loosened federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell research funding, something the Catholic Church opposes.

After their meeting, the Vatican issued a statement which underscored another key difference in the men's views, ''In the course of their cordial exchanges, the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interest of all and which constitute a great challenge ... such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one's conscience.''

But President Obama didn't let his pro-choice stance obscure a detail on which he and the Pope agree. Mr. Obama told the Pontiff of his desire to reduce the number of abortions in the US.

"It's a long- articulated and long-held belief of the president that he wants to reduce the number of abortions in America," Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough told the press.

The pair also found common ground on the topic of Middle East peace, including a desire to reach out to Muslim communities, and reforming immigration in the United States.

But it's the issue of abortion and stem cells on which the president could use a boost with Catholics in America.

The president "very much appreciated the opportunity to discuss a range of issues, including those on which they did not agree but on which it was clear that they both felt very strongly," McDonough added.

By all accounts the encounter was a friendly one. The Pope was heard by reporters as saying, "I will be praying for you".

 "[A]t the end of the day, it may just be that there's issues that they can't come to agreement on, but I think he believes that you can be -- that you can disagree without being disagreeable."

As for the doctrine on bioethics, the White House says the president was very appreciative that he gave it to him and that he looks forward to reading it.