President Barack Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time on Thursday.
The Commander-in-Chief stopped by the Vatican during his visit to Italy where he spoke to His Holiness about religious freedom, international conflict and poverty.
“Wonderful meeting you,” the president told the pope as the two shook hands. “I’m a great admirer.”
President Obama also delivered a message from the American people: Come visit us. Obama invited Francis to visit the U.S., specifically Washington, D.C., next year.
The two talked privately for 52 minutes, making it one of the longest meetings between a pope and an American President.
“Views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved,” Obama said in a statement after the meeting.
After their meeting, each person of the U.S. delegation was introduced to the pope one by one. The delegation included Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Press Secretary Jay Carney.
The President and the pontiff do not agree on some issues such as abortion, birth control and same-sex marriage. However, they focused on one issue that is of highly importance to both men: poverty.
“I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak with him about the responsibilities that we all share to care for the least of these, the poor, the excluded,” said Obama. “And I was extremely moved by his insights about the importance of us all having a moral perspective on world problems and not simply thinking in terms of our own narrow self-interests.”
Upon their meeting, President Obama gave Pope Francis a chest containing seeds from the White House garden. The pope in return, gave Obama a copy of his papal mission statement.
“I’m sure it will give me strength and it will calm me down,” the president told the pope.
This is the second time Obama has met a pontiff. In 2009, he met Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI during his visit to Italy for the G-8 summit.
Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959 has met with the pope.- - -