Pope Francis and President Barack Obama smile as they exchange gifts, at the Vatican Thursday, March 27, 2014. President Barack Obama called himself a "great admirer" of Pope Francis as he sat down at the Vatican Thursday with the pontiff he considers a kindred spirit on issues of economic inequality. Their historic first meeting comes as Obama's administration and the church remain deeply split on issues of abortion and contraception. (AP Photo/Gabriel Bouys, Pool) ORG XMIT: VAT210
Updated: April 29, 2014 6:36AM
Pope’s triple play . . .
Pope Francis plans to sow the seeds he was gifted by President Barack Obama at the Vatican in Rome Thursday, but Sneed hears they will be planted diplomatically.
No. 1: A papal White House visit?
Although Obama hasn’t issued the pope a formal White House invitation, he did suggest such a visit with the pontiff, who has yet to visit the U.S., when he gave him a box of seeds.
“If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well,” the president added.
The pope’s response: “Why not?”
Sneed hears hot speculation Francis might make a detour to the White House next year as well as stop in New York to address the United Nations — when he potentially makes his first visit to the U.S. in September 2015 to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The Philly event had originally been placed on the papal agenda by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, before Benedict stunned the world by retiring.
No. 2: A papal prayer for the Oval Office?
Although the 52-minute Vatican meeting between the pontiff and POTUS was cheerful and warm, there was a serious aside when Obama, who has been inundated by a flood of political and media criticism for diplomatic bumbling and Obamacare mishandling, requested a little spiritual help.
◆ As the two world powerhouses shook hands and said farewell, Obama expressed disappointment that his family, first lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha weren’t able to meet Francis.
“My family has to be with me on this journey,” he said. “They have been very strong. Pray for them. I would appreciate it.”
The pope nodded.
No. 3: The cardinal’s story . . .
Sneed is told Cardinal George, whose treatment for his third bout of cancer has been postponed due to a continuing stomach infection, is hoping to attend the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII on April 27 in Rome.
It has been suggested that might be the time the Vatican chooses to talk retirement with George, who has already sent in the required letter of resignation.
“I can assure the church has not formally started the replacement process yet, because Cardinal George talked to the Papal Nuncio last week and I’m told it was not discussed,” said Colleen Dolan, the cardinal’s spokesperson.
A source who is familiar with the cardinal’s vetting process added: “However, the key to speeding up the retirement process is the cardinal’s health.”
George, who met with the Illinois bishops Thursday, is “doing well” and still being treated for the stomach infection that hospitalized him for a week recently, said Dolan.
“We are hoping the cardinal will be given the go-ahead to begin his cancer treatment this weekend, but we don’t know whether they can continue to do the same chemo treatment or use a different drug and spread it out over a longer period of time,” she added.
Sports shorts . . .
Sneed hears the hush-hush list of partners in the new Chicago Sports Museum and Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch restaurant, which opens next Wednesday at Water Tower Place, is comprised of a veritable Chicago sports Who’s Who.
◆ To wit: Included in the list are Chicago Bear Brandon Marshall, former Bear and NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent; Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and NHL Hall of Famer Bobby Hull; Chicago Cub Starlin Castro, former White Sox star Ron Kittle; and Hall of Fame Coach Marv Levy — who have all provided the museum with sports memorabilia.
◆ Sneed is told additional partners include: James “Desperate Housewives” Denton — a former Harry Caray’s waiter — and radio stars Eric Ferguson and Roe Conn.
A Jagger jot . . .
A Stones throw: Rolling Stones impresario Mick Jagger, 70, was the only member of the band attending the funeral of his “best friend and lover,” fashion designer L’Wren Scott, who was buried in Los Angeles Tuesday following her suicide last week. But actress Nicole Kidman was there.
Sneedlings . . .
Friday’s birthdays: Reba McEntire, 59; Julia Stiles, 33, and Samuel Ramey, 72.