When President Barack Obama meets Thursday at the Vatican with Pope Francis, it will be the 28th time that a sitting American president has met with the man who leads the Catholic Church and its estimated 1.2 billion faithful worldwide.
For nearly 140 years after America won its independence, presidents didn’t look at a meeting with the pope as a hot ticket. The dominance of Protestants in the new nation, persistent questions about who really led the Catholic Church and from where, to say nothing of the difficulties of travel, all made such summits impossible.
That changed in 1919, when Woodrow Wilson became the first U.S. president to be granted a papal audience. John F. Kennedy, America’s only Catholic president, made his Vatican pilgrimage just a few months before his assassination in 1963. Jimmy Carter played host in 1979 to the first White House visit by a reigning pope. George W. Bush holds the record for papal greeting; he met with two popes during his eight years in office,Read More »from When the president meets the pope