President Barack Obama held a historic first meeting Thursday morning with Pope Francis at the Vatican, on the fourth day of his week-long trip through Europe.
The two world leaders smiled and greeted each other with a handshake, according to a White House pool report of the meeting.
“Wonderful meeting you,” Obama said, according to the pool report. “Thank you sir, thank you.”
“It is a great honour. I’m a great admirer,” he added. “Thank you so much for receiving me.”
In many ways, Pope Francis’ still-rising popularity on the world stage mirrors the standing of Obama in 2008, when he was first campaigning for president. In its preview of Obama’s trip, the White House said Obama looked forward to discussing their “shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” issues that have been embraced by the Pope in his first year.
Obama presented Francis with a “custom-made seed chest featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden,” a White House official said. Earlier this month, Pope Francis said he would open to the public the gardens of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.
The admiration for Pope Francis runs wide in Washington. Earlier this month, House Speaker John Boehner invited the pope to address a joint session of Congress sometime in the near future. The pope has a 76 per cent approval rating with Americans, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
The meeting between the president and pope lasted just less than an hour Thursday morning. Here’s a photo of Obama and Pope Francis meeting for the first time:
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