Mr Obama arrived at the Vatican amid all the pomp and tradition of the Catholic Church, making his way in a long, slow procession through the hallways of the Apostolic Palace led by colorful Swiss Guards and accompanied by ceremonial attendants.
The president bowed as he shook hands with the pontiff in the Small Throne Room, before the two sat down at the pope’s desk, as is custom for a papal audience.
Mr Obama presented the pope with a seed chest with fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden, mentioning that he understands the pope is opening the gardens at the papal summer residence to the public.
The chest was inscribed with the date of their meeting and custom-made of leather and reclaimed wood from the Baltimore Basilica - one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the US.
After leaving the Vatican midday, Mr Obama made his way to Rome’s Quirinal Palace for a series of meetings with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Later, Mr Obama and Mr Renzi were to take questions from the press together at Rome’s Villa Madama, a Renaissance-era villa said to be designed by Raphael.
Mr Obama is the ninth president to make an official visit to the Vatican.
His audience marks a change of pace for the president, who has devoted the past three days of a weeklong, four-country trip to securing European unity against Russia’s aggressive posture toward Ukraine.