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Obama to meet with Pope in Rome

PopeFrancis

(CNN) — President Barack Obama plans to soon meet with Pope Francis for the first time.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the President was “looking forward” to visiting the popular new leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican.

Kerry did not say when the trip would take place.

The White House said it had no specific travel announcements to make, but that Obama “very much looks forward to meeting Pope Francis at some point in the near future.”

Kerry, a Roman Catholic, met with Vatican leaders on Tuesday to discuss foreign policy and economic issues, including Francis’ outspoken stance on income inequality worldwide.

He did not meet with the Pope.

Obama has cited the Pope’s inequality stance himself in an economic address in December.

“Across the developed world, inequality has increased,” Obama said. “Some of you may have seen just last week, the Pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. ‘How can it be,’ he wrote, ‘that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?'”

Obama met Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2009, six months after taking office. That meeting, which took place at the Vatican, was Obama’s only meeting with a Pope.

His presidency has been marked by some high-profile clashes with the Catholic Church, including over abortion and contraception.

But Francis’ approach to world economic issues is widely seen as more in line with Obama’s own approach than that of Benedict, who stepped down last year.

In an MSNBC interview last year, Obama called Francis an “extraordinarily thoughtful and soulful messenger of peace and justice.”

“I haven’t had a chance to meet him yet,” Obama said. “But everything that I’ve read, everything that I’ve seen from him, indicates the degree to, to which he is trying to remind us of those core obligations.”

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