(Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
The White House concluded its week of Easter celebrations with a breakfast reception by Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama at the White House Friday morning, where the leaders discussed the importance of Christ's sacrifice to the world.
"In these sacred days, those of us as Christians remember the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for each of us – how, in all His humility and His grace, He took on the sins of the world and extended the gift of salvation. And we recommit ourselves to following His example – to loving the Lord our God with all our hearts and all our souls and with all our minds, and to loving our neighbors as ourselves," Obama said to a crowd of 135 attendees, including many pastors and priests, adding in jest that he does not like preaching in front of people who do it for a living.
"That's the eternal spirit of Easter. And this year, I had – I think was particularly special for me because right before Easter I had a chance to feel that spirit during my trip to the Holy Land," the U.S. president added, referring to his recent trip to Israel.
"And so for Christians to walk where He walked and see what He saw are blessed moments. And while I had been to Jerusalem before, where Jesus healed the sick, and cured the blind, and embraced the least of these, I also had a chance to go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem."
Obama has not identified with one particular Christian denomination, but on Easter Sunday he attended an Episcopal Church and listened to a sermon by the Rev. Luis León of St. John's Church in Washington D.C., who also delivered the benediction at Obama's inauguration ceremony in January.
The sermon sparked some controversy among conservative Christians, who did not like that León accused the religious right of trying to take America backwards on social issues.
Obama has drawn opposition from some conservative believers with the HHS mandate which they say forces them to go against their beliefs and provide birth control insurance to employees, and his recent support for same-sex marriage.
Vice President Biden, a Roman Catholic, praised the newly elected Pope Francis during the Easter Prayer Breakfast, and described how encouraged he is by the Vatican's new leader.
"For me, the essence of my faith is tolerance: not being judgmental about people of different faiths. When I was in Rome a few weeks ago, Pope Francis spoke movingly in his homily about our commitments to each other, not just as people of faith, but, he went on to say, but as human beings," Biden said.
"I grew up in a tradition of Catholic social doctrine, and I was incredibly impressed by His Holiness's homily, his sense of social justice. But I believe his message reads something essential about all faiths, and that is ultimately we all believe that we have a responsibility to one another and we all are our brothers' and our sisters' keepers."
The full remarks by President Obama and Vice President Biden have been made available on the White House website.