After much anticipation in the media and enduring some of the most inane pieces of journalism and bloggery, the meeting between Pope Benedict and President Obama took place today at the Vatican. Protocol divides presidential and prime ministerial visits into three categories with an increasing degree of ceremony: private visit, official visit and state visit. Today's meeting with President Obama was considered private.
Obama arrived at the Vatican shortly before 4 p.m., and a squad of Swiss Guards saluted him in the St. Damasus Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. First greeted by U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household, he was accompanied to a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. This usually occurs after the meeting with the pope but for undisclosed reasons it occurred first. After a private discussion with Pope Benedict, Obama introduced the First Lady and his two children to the pope. A group photo, pope and president exchange gifts and the first family will leave for the airport. The whole affair took an hour.
Wild prognostication has been proffered about a "frank discussion" and "common ground" as people on all sides look to have their expectation met as to the outcome of this meeting. So far we know the President told the Pope it was a great honor to meet him and they spoke about the G8 Summit. No surprises there for the sensible. We'll be looking out for how this meeting is spun to bolster agendas. In the meantime here is a BBC video: