Pence meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican

Pence meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence on Friday met with Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope calls for cooperation on coronavirus vaccine development, international sharing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Congress close to deal on new coronavirus bill Pope calls for inequalities to be abolished after 'time of trial' MORE at the Vatican, where the two leaders had a cordial interaction and discussed the March for Life taking place in Washington, D.C.

The vice president, who is devoutly religious and was raised Catholic, exchanged gifts with the pope and relayed greetings from President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE before speaking privately with the pope. The two men discussed the anti-abortion rally on the National Mall, the situation in Venezuela and displaced religious minorities in the Middle East, according to Pence's office.

Pence gifted Pope Francis a crucifix made with wood from a tree near the vice president's residence in Washington. The Pope in turn presented Pence with a small white box containing a small medal, to the vice president's delight.

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“This is for mom," Pence said, adding, "You’ve made me a hero."

The vice president was joined for the visit by his national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, as well as Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich and former Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.). Pence also took a tour of the Sistine Chapel before continuing on to Rome for a meeting with the Italian president.

Trump previously met with Pope Francis in May 2017. The pope has at times issued implicit criticisms of certain Trump policies, including the wall along the southern border.

Pence's stop at the Vatican comes a day after he attended a Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. He met there with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, who will travel to Washington, D.C., next week for a meeting with Trump.

The Trump administration has repeatedly sought to appeal to white evangelical voters, a key faction of the president's base. The administration has rolled out policies aimed at support for Israel, appointed conservative judges and issued executive orders meant to protect religious freedom.

In another effort to court evangelicals, Trump will speak at the March for Life on Friday, becoming the first sitting president to attend the anti-abortion event in person.