President Obama to Meet Pope Francis

The White House schedules visit to the Vatican in late March

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The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time in late March.

“The President looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama will arrive in the Vatican on March 27, after visiting the Netherlands March 24 for a nuclear security summit, and meeting with the leadership of the European Union in Belgium.

The Vatican trip will come ahead of the Pope’s planned trip to the Middle East in May. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Vatican counterpart last week to discuss the status of peace talks between Israel and Palestine and the nearly three-year civil war in Syria, for which the Vatican has repeatedly called for a peaceful resolution.

The President has praised the Pope as a “soulful messenger of peace and justice” and cited the Pontiff’s writing on income inequality and poverty. Vice President Joe Biden attended the papal inauguration last year, but Obama and the Pope have never spoken.

–with reporting from Zeke J Miller