TODAY

TODAY   |  March 27, 2014

Pope Francis and POTUS meet for first time

President Obama and Pope Francis met on Thursday for the first time, in Vatican City. Obama planned to discuss income inequality with the pontiff. NBC’s Anne Thompson, who covers the pope, joins TODAY to weigh in. NBC’s chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd reports.

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>> the pomp and pageantry, the president sitting down with the pope earlier. chuck todd is in the vatican city . chuck, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. it's a meeting the president has been talking up for months, been more excited about it than he usually is for other world leaders . he finally got his meeting with pope francis, a meeting that lasted nearly an hour. president obama arriving at the vatican this morning.

>> so nice to see you.

>> a slow procession of dignitary escorted mr. obama while the iconic swiss guard stood at attention. the president and the pontiff exchanged warm greetings. they sat down in the pope's study as photographers snapped away, then were joined by translators for their private meeting. in an interview out this morning with an italian newspaper, the president said he wanted the main topic of his conversation to be about income inequality across the globe saying it not just an economic issue, it's a moral issue. after the meeting the two exchanged gift. the president presenting the pope with a custom-made sea chest, featuring vegetables and seen grown in the white house garden. there's little doubt mr. obama enjoy as greater ideological comfort level with the current pope, at least when it comes to economic philosophy and social justice . yesterday the vatican put out an official press release, not highlighting the way president obama and the pope agree but the disagreements, calling this a complex time, noting that the pope disagrees with the president's contraception on health care and legalizing gay marriage .

>> do we know anything about the tone of discussion when those subject, the one you just mentioned and some others where they disagree with brought up?

>> we know that the president really wanted to talk about income inequality and he keeps bringing that up, had that interview with the italian newspaper. ilt our understanding the pope was not going to be digging into the details and getting into the pointed ways, somebody who is a very close watcher of the catholic church said he would be acting more like a pastor, that the more pointed disagreements were going to come up in a meeting afterwards that takes place between the vatican secretary of state , the president, even john kerry would be in that one and that's where these political disagreements, the issue of religious freedom , of course we have that big sport case tackling on that issue of contraceptive coverage, that's where those issues were likely to come up. timothy dolan cardinal said he thinks the president can benefit from listening to the pope, that the holy sea is one of the best listening hopes. do you agree with inthat?

>> absolutely. you look at the issues, theish p -- the issue of poverty, he put that back on the agenda.

>> and the pope enormously popular, some 80% of catholics say they're in favor of him, 60% say he has renewed their faith for the church. is there something just rubbing elbows with the pope for president obama ?

>> let's remember one in four americans are catholics. i think where the president's own approval ratings are not so hot, just being seen with the pope where there are a lot of catholic voters in the united states , it's not going to hurt. i think the white house sees this as a potential political up side.

>> chuck todd at the vatican , ann thompson here in new york.