Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama says that "around the world, freedom of religion is under threat."
And at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, the President also said he's looking forward to meeting Pope Francis.
"I'm especially looking forward to returning to the Vatican next month to meet his holiness, Pope Francis, whose message about caring for the least of these I hope all of us heed. Like (the Apostle) Matthew he has answered the call of Jesus, who said 'follow me' and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility and his mercy and his missionary impulses to serve the cause of social justice," Obama said.
The President touted the Pope's stance on inequality as he and congressional Democrats highlight the issue of income inequality. Obama met Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2009. That meeting, which took place at the Vatican, was Obama's only meeting with a Pope.
Much of Obama's remarks focused on threats to religious freedom abroad, from China to Egypt to Sudan and Burma.
"We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in attempt to justify hatred, persecution against other people just because of who they are and how they pray or who they love," said the President at the breakfast, which was held at the Washington Hilton hotel.
The President also called for the release of Americans imprisoned abroad for what many believe are religious issues: Kenneth Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 months of hard labor in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012.
"I hope that somehow they hear our prayers for them," Obama said.
Obama did not address religious freedom in the United States, which some conservative groups say is under threat because of the controversial contraception mandate in the new health care law. Dozens of lawsuits, including two that have reached the Supreme Court, have been filed against the mandate on religious freedom grounds.
Presidents traditionally address the audience at the annual prayer breakfast, a six-decade-old event that brings together leaders of all faiths and political persuasions.
CNN Belief Blog Co-editor Daniel Burke and CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.
More proof of the Right's unhinged nature- really people? America, or the Democrats or the President are hostile to religion? Where in the world do you get that?
You can practice your religion- no one cares. You can believe whichever religious tenents you like, no one cares. I think the problem- especially for the GOP is their inability to see the difference between religious tolerance, and theocracy. No one has the right to impose their beliefs or values on anyone else- yet we are seeing ALEC's brand of discrimination (wrapped as a "religious freedom" law) working it's way through state legislatures (see Arizona's take in HB 2153) that enshrines the right to discriminate against Blacks, Gays and others, all based upon one's "sincerely" held religious beliefs.
Any party that advocates for discrimination is not Christian. I doubt one can find a justification for such a belief or action in the Bible.
"Not all christians and jews press their belief on others. Maybe you should consider that before treating them like crackpots."
Stop pretending we're criticizing ALL Christians or Jews or whoever. We're not. Only the ones who are doing it. Moreover, we're criticizing conservatives for doing it, because they're the ones who use it. There are plenty of quite religiously devoted Christians and Jews who abhor what conservatives are trying to use their religions to achieve. And before you get mad and say 'well it's not fair to generalize it to all conservatives," I'm going to tell you why it is: because even those who don't necessarily believe in it are complicit in it for their support of the GOP/Teatrolls who use it as part of their platform. They may not personally believe that everyone should be legally ordered to live their life in a Christian manner, but they sure do love the help the wedge issue gives their candidates.
@Donna – Absolutely hilarious and disgusting coming from the person that has his AG fighting the Little Sisters of the Poor in the USSC to force them to violate their religious beliefs and force Obamacare mandates on them.
Yes, absolutely hilarious and disgusting coming from a pundit who would happily force THEIR religious beliefs down someone else's throat. Corporations are NOT people and regardless of the religious beliefs of those running it, or those of a particular religious sect running a Hospital, pharmacy, fried chicken or craft store, these are Federal employer mandates. The administration is NOT forcing an religious viewpoint or deliberately ignoring their beliefs.. no-one is forcing contraception of abortion on the Little Sisters, but if they are going to employ people, they need to provide the benefit.
If I said that MY religious beliefs do not warrant me paying taxes (of any kind) or that I follow traffic rules and speed limits.. you'd say I was a loon, and vote to enforce me to comply. So why is this issue any different.
Your expressed hypocrisy it pathetic.
Aaaw, how cute, you're pretending that we're criticizing all Christians and Jews for it. We're not. There are plenty of very religiously devoted liberal Christians and Jews who abhor what the conservatives are trying to use their religions to achieve. Nobody's claiming all Christians or Jews are trying to do that. Rather, we're claiming the conservative/GOP/Teatroll ones are trying to do that, and that includes the ones who don't necessarily believe it but still don't stand up and tell the rest of their party to cut the crap...they're complicit.
why id it every time obama opens his mouth a twisted weird dialog comes out? Sorry, he lost me on this one too. My mother used to say "If you don't have anything to say, for heaven sake don't say it."