Pope Francis received US President Joe Biden Friday, in what was the president’s first official trip to the Vatican since his inauguration.
The private meeting is the longest to take place between the Pope and a head of state, lasting an unusually long 75 minutes.
President Biden is said to have thanked the Pope for his advocacy for the world’s poor and complimented him on his climate and vaccine leadership.
The Vatican said Pope Francis and President Biden discussed the protection and care of the planet, the fight against the pandemic, refugees and assistance to migrants, while reference was also made to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience.
In Rome for the G20 summit which is to take place October 30-31, President Biden and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, were welcomed by Msgr Leonardo Sapienza, the regent of the papal household.
President Biden could be heard saying as he shook hands with lay dignitaries, “Thank you, it’s good to be back. It’s good to be back”.
It was the fourth meeting between Pope Francis and Mr Biden, but his first as president.
After their private conversation, Pope Francis and President Biden exchanged gifts, as is customary during visits of heads of state to the Vatican.
President Biden presented the Pope with a 1930s fiddleback chasuble, which was a gift from the archives of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington DC, where Mr Biden frequently attends Mass.
The chasuble was commissioned in 1930 by the famous Roman tailor Gammarelli.
The White House also made a donation of winter coats for the poor in the Pope’s name.
President Biden also reportedly gave Pope Francis a copy of his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” about losing his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer at the age of 46, as well as a presidential command coin inscribed with the unit of his late son, who had been deployed to Iraq in 2008.
Mr Biden explained the reason for the coin to the Pope, saying: “I’m not sure this is appropriate, but there’s a tradition in America that the president has what is called a command coin that he gives to warriors and leaders and you are the most significant warrior for peace I’ve ever met.”
“And with your permission, I’d like to give you this coin,” he said, saying, “I know my son would want me to give this to you.”
For his part, Pope Francis gave the president an image on a ceramic tile called “The Pilgrim,” some volumes of papal documents, his 2021 message for peace, the 2019 document on human fraternity, and a Vatican book about the Pope’s March 2020 Urbi et Orbi service for an end to the pandemic.
President Biden also had private meetings with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher.