President Obama -- who has said he's been "hugely impressed" by Pope Francis -- will meet with him at the Vatican in person in March, the White House says.
Obama will travel to Vatican City on March 27 for the meeting with Francis. The White House says Obama "looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality."
In Rome, Obama will meet with President Napolitano and Prime Minister Letta
The visit will come at the end of a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy. In the Netherlands on March 24-25, Obama will participate in a Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by the Dutch government, where the White House says world leaders "will highlight progress made to secure nuclear materials and commit to future steps to prevent nuclear terrorism." Obama will also meet with Dutch officials.
From the Netherlands, Obama will travel to Brussels March 26 for a U.S.-EU Summit with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission. It will be Obama's first visit to the EU institutions. While in Belgium, Obama will hold bilateral events with Belgian government officials and the NATO Secretary General.
Obama in an interview in October said he had been "hugely impressed" with Francis.
"Not because—of any particular issue, but, first of all, he seems somebody who lives out the teachings of Christ," Obama said on CNBC. "Incredible humility, incredible sense of empathy to the least of these, to the poor. And he's also somebody who's, I think first and foremost, thinking about how to embrace people as opposed to push them away."
Secretary of State John Kerry, who met last week at the Vatican with his counterpart, hinted that Obama wanted to meet with Francis. Kerry said he discussed with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, the "common interest of Pope Francis and President Obama in addressing poverty and extreme poverty on a global basis.”
He said then that Francis and Obama were likely to meet.
“I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet him,” Kerry said.
Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, concluding their meeting with a request that the Holy Father pray for him and his family.
Obama spent a half hour meeting one on one with the spiritual leader of the world's Roman Catholics, discussing hotspots around the world, talking about issues such as poverty where they agree and issues such as abortion where they disagree.