March 27 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama offered his respect today to a pope who has excited Catholics and non- Catholics alike and refocused the world's largest religious institution on issues of poverty and inequality that the president has set as themes of his second term.

"I'm a great admirer," Obama told the pope before the two men entered the Papal Library for their meeting. "Thank you so much for receiving me."

The president was escorted to his audience with Pope Francis in a slow procession through the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican, led by papal attendants in formal attire. Swiss guards dressed in gold and purple uniforms saluted him.

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