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President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis for the first time on Thursday. The two smiled and shook hands for the press before a meeting the White House hopes will result in the two sharing their views on growing inequality and combating poverty.
Obama was met by the Swiss guards outside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, notes The LA Times. He told the Pontiff that it was a great honor to meet him and that he is an admirer. “Thank you so much for receiving me,” Obama said.
CNN reports that the president and the Catholic community haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has opposed a measure in the Affordable Care Act that requires nonprofit religious organizations to provide contraception coverage. The Supreme Court has already started hearing arguments against the measure.
Still, the White House wants the meeting to be focused on economic issues. Obama has already voiced public support for the pope’s economic position.
“Given his great moral authority, when the pope speaks, it carries enormous weight,” Obama told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera Thursday. “He doesn’t just proclaim the Gospel, he lives it. We’ve all been moved by his humility and acts of mercy. His deeds, the simple act of reaching out to the least of these, is a reminder that every one of us has an individual responsibility to live in a righteous way.”
Obama met with Pope Francis for 50 minutes. The meeting comes while the president is taking a trip through Europe.