U.S. President Barack Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis met for the first time Thursday in Vatican City.
The two world leaders shared a hug and a handshake before posing for pictures for the press. Obama's visit to Vatican City is part of the U.S. head of state's consultation with European partners and came as a great opportunity for him to smooth tensions with the catholic church.
The leaders were meant to discuss "their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality" during the visit.
Steve Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, said the Pope would likely bring up immigration and his concerns about contraception in the Affordable Care Act during the talk.
The meeting comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the contraception mandate included in Obama's health care reform. U.S. Catholic Bishops have opposed the provision since its inception.
Immigration was sure to be another "common ground" topic between the Pope and Obama as the White House reiterated their belief that "Immigration reform is the right thing to do for our economy, our security, and our future," just one day before the meeting.
Obama's relationship with the Catholic church has been fragile since the beginning of his term because of his support for abortion rights.
The meeting is expected to boost Obama's approval ratings -- which as of now is in the low 40s -- given that the Pontifex's ratings are the high 80s.
Obama will travel to Rome next where he'll meet with President Napolitano and Prime Minister Letta.
[CNN] [White House]