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President Obama arrived at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City on Thursday.
It would mark the first meeting between Obama and Francis.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis met with President Obama at the Vatican.
The meeting came as Obama’s administration remains deeply split with the church over abortion and contraception.
‘‘It is a great honor. I'm a great admirer,’’ a broadly grinning Obama said. ‘‘Thank you so much for receiving me.’’
The two were scheduled to meet for just half an hour, but their private discussion lasted 52 minutes.
Obama shared a laugh with Pope Francis.
Obama seemed buoyed by the meeting as they emerged and the pope greeted a handful of Obama’s senior advisers.
Ssecretary of State John Kerry was among those who posed for a photo with Obama and Francis.
After the visit, Obama joked of all the pageantry surrounding his Vatican visit, ‘‘His Holiness is probably the only person in the world who has to put up with more protocol.’’
Obama and Francis then exchanged gifts, with the pope handing the president a plaque and an encyclical, or papal letter.
Obama presented the pope with a seed chest with fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden.
Before he departed, Obama asked the pontiff for prayers for his family, and the pope assented.
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