President Obama Plans to Visit Pope Francis in March

President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his weekly general audience, in St. Peter's Square, on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, at the Vatican.
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President Barack Obama will travel to Italy in March to meet with Pope Francis for the first time, the White House announced Tuesday.

The March 27 visit to the Vatican comes as part of a European tour during which Obama will also visit the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

"The president looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality," said a White House statement.

Before arriving in Vatican City, Obama will spend two days in the Netherlands participating in the Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by the Dutch government. Those gathered will discuss security processes for nuclear materials, the statement said.

[READ: Pope Francis Named Time’s Person of the Year]

 

Obama will then travel to Brussels for a meeting with presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, and will also hold meetings with Belgian government officials and with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

While in Italy, Obama will also meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Secretary of State John Kerry visited the Vatican last week, paving the way for Obama's visit. Kerry did not meet with the pope, but instead discussed the Syrian civil war and health care reform with his Vatican counterpart, Archbishop Pietro Parolin.

[READ: Pope Benedict XVI Defrocked Nearly 400 Priests in 2 Years for Molesting Children]

While meeting with the Vatican's secretary of state, Kerry let slip that a meeting between Obama and the pope was forthcoming.

"I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet him," he said.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited the Vatican in 2009 to meet with Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

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