President Obama will meet with Pope Benedict XVI next month to "discuss a range of issues, including their shared belief in the dignity of all people," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
Obama will meet with the pope while he is in Italy for the annual G8 summit, which takes place in L'Aquila July 8-10.
Among the likely topics of discussion between Obama and the pope will be the president's support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research, which puts him at odds with the Roman Catholic Church's teachings.
Within days of taking office, the president, who received 54% of the Catholic vote in his 2008 election, signed an executive order that reversed the Reagan-Bush policy banning federal funding for groups that discuss or provide abortions outside the U.S. Several weeks later he signed another executive order lifting restrictions on stem cell research.
Of course, this president isn't the only U.S. leader to differ with the Vatican. While seeing eye to eye on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage, former President Bush's position on the war in Iraq was contrary to that of Pope Benedict and his predecessor Pope John Paul II, both of whom shared their opinions with Bush who visited five times with the respective popes.
Woodrow Wilson was the first U.S. president to visit the Holy See. The next papal audience for a sitting president was 40 years later, when President Eisenhower met in Rome with Pope John XXIII. Since then, every U.S. president has met with the pope. Pope John Paul II met with President Reagan seven times and with President Clinton four times.