By William Wan
President Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI at The Vatican today. Not much detail yet from the closed meeting and what they talked about, but here are some interesting scenes from the meeting:
Obama arrives at Vatican around 4 p.m. (Rome time) and is greeted by the colorfully dressed Swiss Guard, a scrum of European-looking photographers and Italian officials all dressed in tuxedoed finery and adorned with medals.
After sitting down for a closed meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Obama is escoted to Pope Benedict’s study. Sitting across the pope’s desk, the pope was overheard asking about the recent Group of Eight summit. Obama describes them as “very productive…great progress” and says they emerged with “something concrete.”
Obama emerges from meeting about 20-30 minutes later, now accompanied by Mrs. Obama and family.
Mrs. Obama: “It means a great deal to our family.”
Pope: “It’s a great pleasure.”
The Obamas received some gifts from the Pope, including what appeared to be a painting of what looked like St. Peter’s Square as well as some kind of book.
As Obama left, the Pope had some parting words for him, saying “I pray for you.” Obama tells him, “I look forward to a very strong relationship” and “thank you, God bless you.”
Here’s the official White House pool report from the event:
“After meeting with The Vatican’s Secretary of State (we are told he is a kind of Prime Minister), Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Potus and Pope Benedict XVI first met in the Sala del Tronetto with paintings of Raphael on the wall. The pope and the President shook hands, POTUS visibly deeply humbled by the meeting. “Welcome, Mr President” the Pope said. “Thank you so much, it’s a great honor, thank you so much” the President was heard saying. The two then entered the Papal Library, and POTUS sat down opposite the the Pope on the other side of a wooden desk. “You must be used to have your picture taken” the President said. The pope nodded. “I am still getting used to it”, POTUS added. The Pope, speaking in English, said: “you must be getting tired”. The President was heard saying “very productive” in answer to a question by the Pope and in apparent reference to the G8 summit.
“After a one-on-one session, we are told that the President and the Pope were joined by the First Lady and the First daughters. When your pooler was let in, Malia and Sasha were no longer in the Library. POTUS and Michelle Obama, dressed in black, with a black veil, were standing in front of a huge painting by Il Parmigiano at the other end of the Library. The US delegation (Gibbs, McDonough, Axelrod, Jones, a Navy Aide, Mona Sutphen) was let in and the Pope greeted each one of them. Gibbs kissed the papal ring. Each one of them was presented with gifts, white boxes possibly containing a pontifical medal (for the men), rosaries (for the women). The Pope and the President then exchanged gifts. We were told by The Vatican staff that the President was to give the Pope a stole that had been placed on the remains of St. John Neumann, a 19th-century Redemptorist and the first male naturalized U.S. citizen to become a saint. The Pope was to give the President a mosaic representing Saint Peter’s square, an autographed copy of the encyclical “ca ritas in veritate”, bound in white leather, and a pontifical medal. In front of the table where the gifts were displayed, POTUS was heard saying: “we’ll find a place of honor for that” (unclear what gift he was referring to). He also thanked the Pope for reading material for the flight to Ghana, in apparent reference to the Social Encyclical.”