Pope Benedict XVI received Nancy Pelosi, one of the most prominent abortion rights politicians in America, and told her Wednesday that Catholic politicians have a duty to protect life "at all stages of its development."
The US House speaker, a Catholic, was the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the US Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion.
On his fourth day in office last month, Obama ended a ban on funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option - a sharp policy change from former President George W. Bush's Republican administration.
The Vatican's attempts to keep the Pelosi visit low-profile displayed its obvious unease with the new US administration. Benedict and Bush had found common ground in opposing abortion, an issue that drew them together despite their differences over the war in Iraq.