VATICAN CITY - U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Pope Benedict for the first time on July 10 during a visit to Italy to attend a G8 heads of state meeting, a Vatican source said Wednesday.
Obama has angered many American Catholics with his support for abortion rights for women and his decision to lift restrictions on stem cell research.
The Vatican source said Obama would hold a brief audience with the Pope in the afternoon, after the conclusion of the July 8-10 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
A Vatican spokesman declined to confirm or deny the timing of the meeting.
The Vatican and Italian Church leaders condemned Obama's decision in March to lift restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research put in place by his predecessor George W. Bush.
His subsequent invitation to speak at Notre Dame, a premier U.S. Catholic university, sparked criticism last month. While some heckled Obama during his speech, his appeal for a fair-minded discussion on abortion was received with several standing ovations. The G8 summit is due to discuss a response to the ongoing international economic crisis and global warming. It will take place in the central Italian city of L'Aquila, which bore the brunt of an earthquake in April that killed nearly 300 people.
(Editing by Lin Noueihed)