— -- What does the leader of the free world give the leader of the Catholic Church?
President Obama and Pope Francis privately engaged in the traditional diplomatic gift exchange as they marked the pontiff's first visit to the White House.
The president presented the pope with a one-of-a-kind sculpture of an ascending dove, which serves as an international symbol of peace as well as the Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit, a White House official said.
The sculpture incorporates "an original armature bar from the Statue of Liberty" which was preserved from the statue's centennial restoration. The pedestal on which the sculpture sits was made of "historic wood reclaimed from the White House lawn," and includes a personal inscription marking the occasion.
"This custom gift honors His Holiness’ tireless advocacy for the world’s most vulnerable," the White House official said.
The president also gave Pope Francis a 206-year-old key from the home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was the first native-born American to be declared a saint and was canonized 40 years ago.
The key was placed on a piece of marble from the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
"This gift honors His Holiness Pope Francis’ designation of 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life and celebrates both His Holiness’ and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s dedication to opening doors for the poor, sick, and vulnerable," the White House official said.
Pope Francis gifted Obama a bronze bas-relief plaque commemorating the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, where the pope will celebrate Mass on Sunday.
When the two men met at the Vatican in 2014, Obama gave the pope a custom-made box of seeds, including fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden. The pope gave the president two medallions and a copy of “Evangelii Gaudium” or “The Joy of The Gospel."
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