VATICAN CITY — A visibly energized President Barack Obama held a nearly hour-long audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, expressing his great admiration for the pontiff and inviting him to visit the White House.
Although Obama and the church remain deeply split over abortion and contraception, Obama considers the pontiff a kindred spirit on issues of economic inequality, and their private meeting in the Papal Library ran longer than scheduled. After they emerged to cameras, Francis presented Obama with a copy of his papal mission statement decrying a global economic system that excludes the poor. Obama said he will keep it in the Oval Office.
The president and pope both appeared tense at the start of the audience, when they initially greeted one another, but then were all smiles by the end of the meeting and seemed to have found a rapport, though they spoke through interpreters.
"It is a great honor. I'm a great admirer," Obama said after greeting the pope with a slight bow as they shook hands. "Thank you so much for receiving me."
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