U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time Thursday at Vatican City.
The two world leaders greeted each other with a smile and a handshake, and posed for pictures before sitting down across a table from each other.
The tete-a-tete was an opportunity for a reset of sorts between the Obama administration and Catholic leadership following several years of strained relations.
The goal: focus on areas where two of the world’s most influential men agree and gently tread ground where they differ.
That means the President and the Pontiff will, as the White House said in a statement, focus on “shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing (income) inequality” and gingerly navigate such thornier topics as same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.
“In general, they’ll be looking for areas of conversation where there is great agreement between the Vatican and the administration,” said Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.
“The Pope will likely bring up immigration in a broad way … and I do think there’s a possibility the bishops’ concerns about contraception in the (Affordable Care Act) might be mentioned,” Schneck said.
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