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Associated Press
Don't tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts, and a beautiful family that would make any man proud. —Mitt Romney

Acknowledging that “there’s more to life than politics,” Mitt Romney told the white tie crowd at Thursday night’s 67th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City that while he and President Barrack Obama “feel the pressures and tensions of a close contest” in this year's presidential election, they “don’t carry the burden of disliking one another.”

After launching a full arsenal of zingers at his presidential opponent and at himself, Romney turned serious long enough to pay tribute to the president.

“Don’t tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts, and a beautiful family that would make any man proud,” Romney said. “In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will, and that’s how it is for me.”

Obama used a few moments of his time at the podium to observe that “it says something about who we are as a people that we can come together in the middle of a contentious election season, and opposing candidates can share the same stage.

“I particularly want to thank Gov. Romney for joining me,” the president continued, “because I admire him very much as a family man and a loving father, and those are two titles that will always matter more than any political ones.”

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Catholic Archbishop of New York and host of the fund-raising event that is co-sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of New York and the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, referred to the presidential candidates as “two honorable men.”

Obama and Romney, he said, were both “called to the noble vocation of public service,” and he observed that their “love for God and country is only surpassed by their love for their own wives and children.”

In keeping with the fun-loving spirit of the event, Cardinal Dolan noted that he had come directly from a meeting in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI. "Just before I left, Pope Benedict said he had a message for the two presidential candidates,” Cardinal Dolan said. “And do you know what that message from the Holy Father was?”

He paused for a moment, looking at Obama and Romney, who smiled and remained silent.

“Well, neither do I,” the Cardinal said. “He said it in Latin and I didn’t understand a word of it.”