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When Pope Francis meets President Obama, expect collaboration over conflict

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The ambassador noted in particular the Vatican’s role in the Syrian peace talks in Switzerland (and opposing Obama’s threatened military strikes), following on Francis’ persistent calls for peace in places like Ukraine, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

What will also be important in the meeting between Francis and Obama is whether they establish the kind of personal rapport that can often shape diplomatic relations — and world events. On that score, many expect the pope and the president could hit it off when they spend the first half-hour or so in a one-on-one meeting before bringing in aides to tackle the rest of the agenda.

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Vatican officials often speak highly of Obama in private conversations, and even when they disagree with him, they do so in terms that are far less caustic and charged than the language many U.S. bishops use.

For his part, Obama has gone out of his way to praise and quote the pope. That’s no surprise: Obama got his start as a community organizer working with the Archdiocese of Chicago fresh out of college — an experience that helped shape his views and politics much as Francis’ ministry as a priest and bishop in poor areas in Argentina molded him.

"Now there’s the foundational element for the president, and here he bumps into Pope Francis, and that’s who he is, too," said Hackett. "So I think they’re going to have a chemistry that will connect."

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