Obama, Pope Francis give distinctly different accounts of meeting Thursday
But he also said that while he shared the pope's economic views, he didn't expect Francis to form a coalition or partnership with him on any issue.
"His job is a little more elevated," Obama said with a chuckle. "We're down on the ground, dealing with the often profane, and he's dealing with higher powers."
Obama arrived at the Vatican amid all the pomp and tradition of the Catholic Church, making his way in a long, slow procession through the hallways of the Apostolic Palace led by colorful Swiss Guards and accompanied by ceremonial attendants. The two greeted one another in the Small Throne Room, before sitting across from one another at the pope's desk, as is custom for a papal audience.
Obama presented the pope with a seed chest with fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House garden, mentioning that he understands the pope is opening the gardens at the papal summer residence to the public. The chest was inscribed with the date of their meeting and custom-made of leather and reclaimed wood from the Baltimore Basilica — one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the U.S.
"If you have a chance to come to the White House, we can show you our garden as well," Obama said.
"Why not?" the pope responded in his native Spanish.
Although the Vatican has not yet confirmed the trip, it is likely that Francis will travel to the U.S. in September 2015 for the church's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Popes have attended these family celebrations five of the past seven times they have been held, and Francis has put family issues at the forefront of his agenda.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has extended an invitation to the pope to address Congress when he visits the United States.
As Obama departed, he asked the pope, "Please pray for me and my family."
It was an echo of how Francis usually ends his meetings, asking for people to pray for him.
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