President Obama Meets Pope Francis at the Vatican

PHOTO: President Barack Obama smiles during his meeting with Pope Francis, March 27, 2014 at the Vatican.
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President Obama met Pope Francis today at the Vatican.

In his first official visit, which began at 10:27 a.m. in Rome, the president and the pope met for about 50 minutes -- longer than many had expected -- before bringing in the rest of the U.S. delegation, including Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and press secretary Jay Carney.

One by one, the 10 members of the delegation were introduced to the pope.

President Obama made the slow, formal procession to greet the pope in the ornate Small Throne Room outside the Papal Library.

WHAT TO KNOW
  • President Obama and Pope Francis met for roughly 50 minutes at the Vatican.
  • Obama presented the pope with a custom-made chest featuring seeds from the White House Garden.
  • The White House delegation at the Vatican included Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
  • Pope Francis recently was invited by House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress.

"Wonderful meeting you. I'm a great admirer," the president said.

The two walked into the library and took seats at opposite sides of the pope's desk.

"I bring greetings from my family," Obama added. "The last time I came here to meet your predecessor I was able to bring my wife and children."

The president also presented the pope with a custom-made chest featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden. The chest was made from American leather and wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"These, I think, are carrots," Obama said, holding a pouch. "Each one has a different seed in it. The box is made from timber from the first cathedral to open in the United States, in Baltimore."

"If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well," the president said.

PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Pope Francis, March 27, 2014 at the Vatican.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Pope Francis, March 27, 2014 at the Vatican.

The inscription on the chest read: "Presented to His Holiness Pope Francis by Barack Obama President of the United States of America, March 27, 2014."

The pope gave the president a plaque, which Obama said he would "treasure."

It was Obama's second visit to the Vatican as president but his first visit with this pope. In 2009, he and first lady Michelle Obama met Pope Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus. For that trip, Obama came bearing a special gift: a stole that covered the remains of St. John Neuman, the first American bishop to be canonized.

After today's visit, will this pope return the favor?

Earlier this month, Pope Francis was invited by House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress. Boehner extended the formal invitation on Mar. 13 in a letter to the Vatican on the one-year anniversary of Francis' papacy saying the Holy Father has "awakened hearts on every continent."

Since Paul VI made his first papal visit to the United States in 1965, three popes have come to America. John Paul II came to the United States seven times, visiting with every president from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton.

PHOTO: Pope Francis and President Barack Obama smile as they exchange gifts, at the Vatican, March 27, 2014.
Gabriel Bouys/AP Photo
PHOTO: Pope Francis and President Barack Obama smile as they exchange gifts, at the Vatican, March 27, 2014.

On Thursday, under an overcast sky, the president's motorcade weaved through Rome to be welcomed at the Vatican with great ceremony.

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