In his address at the White House Wednesday morning, Pope Francis didn’t hold back when it came to voicing support for US bishops as they challenge the Obama administration’s contraception mandate — and he followed up later in the day with a visit to a group of religious sisters at the center of the battle.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, the Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis met with members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of sisters who run nursing homes for the elderly.
The visit was not part of the pope’s public agenda.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi said the visit was “connected” to the pope’s remarks delivered earlier that day, in which the pope praised US bishops for their efforts in defending religious liberty “from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at the evening press briefing, “Freedom of religion requires us also to live out our faith.”
“The last thing the Little Sisters of the Poor want to do is sue somebody,” he continued.
The Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor objected to parts of the Affordable Care Act that require employers to provide insurance for contraception.
The Obama administration issued a compromise that allowed them to notify the government of their opposition, which would trigger a requirement for insurers to provide the coverage instead. But the Little Sisters said they would still be complicit in providing contraception and sued the administration.
In July, they lost an appeal when a federal court said the notification process would not unduly burden them.