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White House's Pope Welcome Is 'Anti-Christian,' Huckabee Says

The Flag of Vatican City flies next to American flags outside the West Wing of the White House on Monday ahead of Pope Francis' arrival.
Andrew Harnik
The Flag of Vatican City flies next to American flags outside the West Wing of the White House on Monday ahead of Pope Francis' arrival.

President Obama is taking some heat over who's been invited to attend Pope Francis' large arrival ceremony at the White House this Wednesday. The list includes the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, an activist nun and a transgender activist — guests the Vatican reportedly objected to, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And the Obama administration also has critics on this side of the pond — the latest is presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Here's what he tweeted Monday:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded to the criticism Monday, saying "there is no theological test that was administered prior to giving out tickets to stand on the South Lawn Wednesday morning."

An estimated 15,000 invitations have been issued for the event, which will take place on the South Lawn of the White House. The Obama administration issued some invitations itself but also partnered with faith organizations including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities.

Earnest declined to respond directly to Huckabee's "anti-Christian" claim but said more generally that

"The president's approach is to welcome the pope warmly to the United States and to eagerly anticipate and participate in a discussion about their shared values.

"There is so much about what Pope Francis has to say that is inclusive and that reflects the kind of personal commitment that Pope Francis has to a wide range of issues, particularly when it comes to social justice. And his eloquent expression of those values has inspired millions people not just here in the United States but around the world, and that's why he's deserving of such a warm welcome, and the president is looking forward to the opportunity to sit down with Pope Francis for a second time and to talk about some of — many of those values that they have in common. ...

"There's plenty of opportunity for others to inject politics into this situation. It certainly is a protected constitutional right of theirs to do that. But that's not what the president is interested in."

Late last week, Earnest said the diversity of the large crowd "reflects the diversity of people in this country that are moved by the teachings and actions of this pope."

Separate from the welcoming event, the president will sit down with the pope and is expected to discuss a range of issues. Earnest said the meeting will not be about politics or specific policies but "rather about the kinds of values that both men have dedicated their lives to championing." President Obama, he said, has been impressed at Pope Francis' willingness "to take on some tough issues and to lay out his values."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.
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