Pope Francis (R) speaks with US President Barack Obama during a private audience on March 27, 2014 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO POOL / GABRIEL BOUYS
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President Barack Obama called himself a "great admirer" of Pope Francis as he sat down at the Vatican Thursday with the pontiff he considers a kindred spirit on issues of economic inequality.Obama seem buoyed by the meeting as they emerged and the pope greeted a handful of Obama's senior advisers.Obama is the ninth president to make an official visit to the Vatican.The pope whom Obama will sit with this time is a different pontiff than the last one to host him. Obama visited Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, a cordial meeting that nevertheless drew attention to the differences between the church and Obama on abortion.To be sure, the relationship between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church is a fraught one. And Vatican officials say Obama will not leave without having heard Francis' views on Obama's health care law and its mandates for contraception coverage.
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