When Popes and Presidents Meet

As part of the continuing coverage of the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States, America will look back over the history of previous encounters between past American presidents and the popes. Included in these blogs are the stories of Benedict XV and Woodrow Wilson, John XXIII and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Paul VI and John F. Kennedy, Paul VI and Lyndon B. Johnson, and well as meetings between Paul VI and Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford.

Also recounted will be the first ever visit to the White House by a pope (John Paul II with Jimmy Carter) and the famous relationship between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. We will also cover John Paul II’s meeting with the two President Bushes, George H. W. Bush (“Bush 41”), and George W. Bush (“Bush 43”). Benedict XVI spent his birthday at the White House (a first) with President George W. Bush and the last American president Benedict XVI would meet was Barack Obama before resigning the papacy.

We will also look at other interesting papal encounters, with a Jesuit-educated presidential translator, military man and diplomat (Vernon Walters) and John XXIII’s meeting with the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy—all of which is a rich sampling of a very colorful (and sometimes controversial) relationship between church and state.

For historical context, we will also include America‘s own editorials and current comments on these encounters as they happened.