Speaking on CNBC on Wednesday, President Barack Obama praised Pope Francis' recent remarks on gays and abortion.

Francis said in an interview last month that the Catholic Church had “locked itself up in small things” by obsessing over abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

CNBC's John Hardwood asked the president: “Pope Francis said the other day that the Catholic Church without changing the church's positions has become too obsessed on issues like gay rights and abortion. What do you think of the pope's remarks and do you see any broader applicability beyond the Catholic Church?”

“I tell you, I have been hugely impressed with the pope's pronouncements,” Obama answered. “Not because of any particular issue. First of all, you're seeing somebody who lives out the teachings of Christ – incredible humility, incredible sense of empathy to the least of these, to the poor. And he's also somebody who's, I think, first and foremost thinking how to embrace people, as opposed to push them away. How to find what's good in them, as opposed to condemn them. And that spirit, that sense of love and unity seems to manifest itself in not just what he says but also what he does. For any religious leader, that's a quality I admire. I would argue for any leader, period, that's a quality that I admire.”