Don't expect President Obama to get a lot of love from Pope Francis

The president wants to bask in the pontiff's positive media coverage. But they are far apart on the issues.

Eisenhower and Pope John XXIII, 1959
(Image credit: (AP Photo/Paul Schutzer))

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will make his second visit to the Vatican, and his first to meet Pope Francis, who has become a relative rarity in the modern era: a media-darling pontiff. The trip comes at an opportune time for Obama, who could use a popular, allegedly left-leaning spiritual leader to help him gain traction with his otherwise moribund agenda. But no one should expect Obama to walk away with much from Francis besides the usual expressions of diplomatic good will.

A visit to the Vatican has become de rigueur for American presidents over the years. The first visit to the Holy See by an incumbent president took place in 1919, when Woodrow Wilson visited Benedict XV during the period in which the Vatican's sovereignty was still an open question after the Italian Risorgimento in 1870. Since Dwight Eisenhower's visit with John XXIII at the Vatican in 1959, every one of his successors has made the trek to Rome. Obama's predecessor George W. Bush made three trips to the Holy See, and hosted three papal visits to the U.S.

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.