President Obama to meet Pope Francis at Vatican today
US President Barack Obama is due to meet Pope Francis for the first time today (Thursday) on the third leg of a European tour dominated by the crisis in Ukraine.
He flew into Rome after three days of talks with EU leaders in the Netherlands and Brussels.
Tensions are high following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
On Wednesday Mr Obama said the US and the EU were considering deeper sanctions against Moscow if there were any further incursions.
Pro-Russian forces seized Crimea – which has a Russian-speaking majority – earlier this month.
US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said President Obama has been inspired by Pope Francis’ messages of inclusion and equality.
He said Mr Obama planned to express his appreciation for his leadership.
The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says the two men have very different views on subjects such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage, but at this meeting they are likely to emphasise what they share.
After meeting the Pope, Mr Obama is due to meet both Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.