By Joe Mathieu, WBZ NewsRadio 1030

BOSTON (CBS) – These two men are very different men on the surface.

A progressive American president who is pro-choice and supports gay marriage. And a Roman Catholic Pope who, of course, does not.

But President Obama and Pope Francis, who met Thursday for the first time, also have a lot in common. And on some big issues, like income inequality and immigration. Even trickle-down economics.

Democrats and Republicans like to argue about this. Each party seems to think that Francis is their Pope. And of course he belongs to neither.

But the overlap with Obama on these issues prompted activists from around the country to appeal to both men in hopes of turning this meeting into something actionable.

You could argue that President Obama has the most to gain in this relationship. After all, the pope enjoys a 76-percent approval rating among Americans, according to Gallup. Almost unheard of in American politics. Obama’s approval rating has fallen below 50-percent.

Whether President Obama enjoys the proverbial halo effect, this meeting was very different from Obama’s introduction to Pope Benedict a few years ago.

You might remember Benedict actually gave the president some reading material – a copy of the church’s bioethics paper against stem cell research, cloning and in-vitro fertilization. That was in 2009.

This pope is not likely to change the church’s stance on those issues but this meeting could lead to an alliance of sorts when it comes to areas of overlap. The most promising may be immigration reform.

It is part of the president’s agenda. And those who support reform believe they have a sympathetic ear in the church. In fact, next week, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley will lead a group of border-state bishops to Arizona where they will pray along the Mexican border for migrants who have lost their lives crossing the desert.

Follow Joe on Twitter @joemathieuwbz




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