President Barack Obama meets Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican, perhaps seeking some reflected glory from a leader whose popularity is soaring one year into his pontificate.
Obama is the ninth president to make an official visit to the Vatican. His audience with the pope marks a change of pace for Obama in his weeklong, four-country trip to secure European unity against Russia's aggressive posture toward Ukraine.
Obama visited Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, a cordial meeting that nevertheless drew attention to the differences between the church and Obama on abortion. The White House sees Francis' emphasis on economic disparity as a form of moral validation of the president's economic agenda.