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President Obama kept it short and sweet Monday in speaking to faith leaders at the White House.

"I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers," Obama joked at the start of the annual Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.

Yet Obama, like many of his predecessors, is very serious about reaching out to faith groups.

In the wake of the Easter prayer service on Monday, Obama hosts a now-annual Passover seder with family, aides and friends on Tuesday.

"We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, re-tell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy," Obama said in a written statement Monday, referring to Passover.

Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, said that "basically, presidents want to recognize pluralism — religious — in America. This is the perfect week to do it."

In his comments at the Easter service, Obama extended prayers to the victims of Sunday's shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement home in Kansas. He said the the nation should "stand united" against this kind of violence.

"We have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we're all children of God," Obama said.

Noting that synagogues and other facilities are increasing security amid the Easter and Passover seasons, Obama said that "nobody should have to worry about their security at a gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray."

Obama discussed his recent meeting with Pope Francis, and their discussion about addressing poverty and income inequality.

He also thanked faith leaders for their good works, such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, promoting education, mentoring young people and "the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion."

Throughout American history, presidents have made pub

lic displays of faith, but the practice appears to have increased in recent decades.

During his successful 1976 campaign for the presidency, Jimmy Carter talked about his life as a born-again Christian. Four years later, Ronald Reagan's winning campaign welcomed the support of conservative Christians who were rapidly becoming a force in national politics.

Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of Barack Obama, said previous presidents have held Easter-related events, but "Obama took it to another level" with the annual prayer breakfast, mirroring the half-century-old National Prayer Breakfast held in February.

Obama is also believed to be the first president to hold a seder at the White House, and Tuesday will be his sixth.

Mansfield, who also wrote a book about George W. Bush's faith, said presidents seek opportunities to connect with different types of religious groups, and to "express their own faith."

Said Mansfield: "We have a society that's surprisingly more religious than we expected."

Just as he began Monday's Easter Prayer Service with a gentle joke, Obama also ended with one.

"I'll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit," the president said. "'Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I've said enough.'"

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