U.S. President Joe Biden on October 29 opened a dense five-day European trip at the Vatican, where he and Pope Francis had an unusually long meeting during which they were set to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and global poverty.
Biden's tour also includes attending the summit of the Group of 20 (G20) industrialized nations in Rome and talks with European allies on Iran's nuclear program and other bilateral issues.
Biden is also due to attend the COP26 world climate conference in Glasgow as the world struggles to deal with the effects of climate change and global warming.
The Vatican said the private meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes and then about another 15 minutes were allotted to picture taking and the exchange of gifts.
Biden's predecessor Donald Trump's meeting with the Pontiff in 2017 lasted about 30 minutes and former President Barack Obama spent about 50 minutes with Francis in 2014.
Both the White House and the Vatican were due to issue statements on the meeting later in the day.
“It’s good to be back,” Biden, a practicing Catholic, said earlier upon arrival at the Vatican.
It is unclear whether Biden's audience with the pope included the controversial issue of abortion. The Biden administration backs the right to abortion, which is at odds with the position of the Catholic Church.
Biden is the second Catholic to serve as U.S. president, following John F. Kennedy from 1961-63.
The two-day G20 summit is scheduled to begin on October 30 in the Italian capital.
Biden is set to meet for bilateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G20.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the meeting would "cover the waterfront" of issues as the two look to ease tensions following a rift over a U.S. security pact with Britain and Australia that saw France lose out on a major submarine deal.
U.S. officials stressed, however, that the main topic on October 30 at a meeting involving Biden, Macron, and leaders of Germany and Britain will be the status of the Iranian nuclear program.
Sullivan told reporters that Biden would be working for a "shared strategy and solidarity and unity in our approach" on Iran. He did not say if the leaders would discuss the resumption of talks with Tehran.
Tehran has said it expects to resume talks with world powers in November on reinvigorating the landmark 2015 nuclear pact, which then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of in 2018.
Biden is also expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sullivan said. Erdogan has said he wants to discuss a deal with Washington over F-16 fighter jets after a pact for more advanced F-35s was scrapped due to Ankara's purchase of a Russian missile system.
On November 1, Biden will travel to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 world climate conference, where the U.S. leader is expected to give a major speech at the UN-sponsored event.