| 4.6°C Dublin

When in Rome ... President all smiles with Pope

US President Barack Obama has met with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

He is the ninth president to make an official visit there.

His audience marks a change of pace for the president, who has devoted the past three days of a week-long, four-country trip to securing European unity against Russia's aggressive posture toward Ukraine.

The pope who Obama sat with this time is a different pontiff to the last one to host him. Obama visited Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

Vatican officials said President Obama would not leave without having heard Francis' views on Obama's health care law and its mandates for contraception coverage.

In Francis, the White House sees the popular pope and his emphasis on economic disparity as a form of moral validation of the president's economic agenda.

"Given his great moral authority, when the pope speaks it carries enormous weight," Obama said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera published ahead of his papal visit.


"He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion."

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, at the Vatican this week trying to secure Francis' attendance in Philadelphia next year, said he expected the Obama-Francis meeting to be good for both the US and the Vatican.