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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 FrancisPriests across Germany bless gay couples in break from Pope The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture Pope Francis denounces 'aggressive' nationalism 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 TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers 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.