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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said concerns that an American pope would be too closely tied to the U.S. government are misplaced, pointing out in an interview that the White House and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are divided on some main issues.
There are two American cardinals among the dozen most frequently mentioned frontrunners in the conclave to elect the next Roman Catholic pope - Sean O'Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York - but conclaves have long been wary of picking a "superpower pope" from the United States.
"It seems to me that an American pope would preside just as effectively as a Polish pope or an Italian pope or a Guatemalan pope," Obama said in an ABC television interview that aired on Wednesday.
"I don't know if you've checked lately, but the Conference of Catholic Bishops here in the United States don't seem to be taking orders from me," Obama said.
The Roman Catholic Church has fought Obama on his 2010 health care law, which requires employers including Catholic universities and hospitals to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives, which the church opposes.
The church has also frowned on Obama's support for same-sex marriage and gay civil rights.
Dolan, archbishop of New York and leader of the U.S. bishops, has become an influential political figure in the United States because of the battle over contraception.
He delivered the closing prayer at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions last year.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton