Pontiff congratulates US president on his re-election in a telegram that has not fully been made public

Pope Benedict XVI has congratulated US President Barack Obama on his re-election, saying that he prayed the ideals of freedom and justice that guided America’s founders might continue to flourish.

The Vatican did not make public the full text of the Pope’s telegram to Obama, which was sent via Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

“In the message, the Holy Father sent his best wishes to the president for his new term and assured him of his prayers that God might assist him in his very great responsibility before the country and the international community,” the Vatican said in a statement.

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The Pope also told Obama he was praying that “the ideals of liberty and justice that guided the founders of the United States of America might continue to shine” as the nation goes forward, the statement said.

In remarks to reporters, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, voiced hopes that Obama would also promote “a culture of life and religious freedom”.

It is the hope of everyone that President Obama “respond to the expectations” of the American people and “serve law and justice for the well-being and growth of every person, by respecting essential human and spiritual values and by promoting the culture of life and religious freedom, which have always been so precious in the tradition of the American people and their culture”, the priest said.

US Catholic bishops have been at odds with Obama over his support for legalised abortion and his administration’s plan to require that the private health insurance plans of most Catholic institutions cover surgical sterilisation procedures and artificial birth control, which are forbidden by the Church’s moral teaching.

The role of president of the United States is “an immense responsibility not just for the great nation, but for the whole world, given the United States’s role on the world stage”, Fr Lombardi said, expressing hopes that the president would be able to “find the best ways to promote the material and spiritual well-being of all and effectively promote integral human development, justice and peace in the world.”

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