US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis walk through the Colonnade on their way to a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis and President Barack Obama seemed to have shared notes before their speeches at the White House Wednesday morning. They both addressed climate change. They both emphasized the importance of helping the vulnerable. In keeping with their likeminded remarks, shortly after Pope Francis left for his next stop, the White House announced a series of recent and future efforts that will help those vulnerable around the country, including a $13 million grant to deter Central American kids from joining gangs.

At the combined speech that morning, Pope Francis said he wanted to see a society that was “truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.”

Likewise, Obama emphasized that the duty of individuals and societies is “to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity”

The two shared a brief stroll, Obama gave Pope Francis two gifts, then the Pope left for the Cathedral of St. Matthews, where he would address some 300 cardinals. During that trip, the White House released a statement with a list of efforts it intends to make to help refugees fleeing their home countries, to eliminate extreme poverty, and to tackle climate change.

To help refugees around the world, especially those fleeing Syria, the White House said it would increase by 15,000 the number of refugees it admits into the U.S. in 2016. That will include at least 10,000 Syrian refugees. In 2017, the White House said it would expand its refugee program to at least 100,000.

The White House also reaffirmed its support to Syrians in the form of aid, and just days ago announced it would give an additional $419 million to Syrians in need.

To help at-risk kids in Central America, The White House said the Department of Labor is making a $13 million grant to Catholic Relief Services. The a project works to deter youth in El Salvador and Honduras from joining gangs. The program is called Youth Pathways, and provides training and employment services to around 5,100 low-income kids between 14-and 20 years old who live in communities with high crime, the White House said.

The White House thanked Pope Francis for the crucial role he played in the talks that renewed relations between the U.S. and Cuba. “The Pope’s moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is,” President Obama said in the statement. The White House also said it intended to continue cooperation with Cuba to help Haiti with its health care needs.

To help fight climate change, the White House listed several ongoing and forthcoming efforts. One of which was an announcement that the Catholic Relief Services will join the Climate Services for Resilient Development initiative. The initiative started this summer. It uses shared research to bring together private and public companies. 

This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.

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