The Guest Arrives... Colla Famiglia
Stay tuned for the formal post-audience statements and whatever else happens to drop... in the meantime, though, two things worth noting fresh off the wire.
First, every visiting head of state or government calls on the Vatican's "prime minister," but usually only after seeing the pontiff. Today, however, the President will meet first with the Cardinal-Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who, as is fairly well-known, speaks little to no English, before heading down the hall to the papal apartment.
And lastly for now, it's taken nine decades of Pope-POTUS sitdowns, but today's 18th American pop-in at the pontiff's place will see one thing that's never happened before as Barack and Michelle Obama bring their daughters to meet Benedict XVI.
Prior First Children have met the Popes; most recently, B16 privately received Laura Bush with her daughter Barbara before the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin (to which the then-FLOTUS was heading the US delegation), and Jenna Bush was on-hand to welcome the reigning pontiff to these shores last year as the Volo Papale touched down at Andrews Air Force Base. The presence of Sasha and Malia Obama today, however, finds the first time that a presidential family in full has come for a Vatican audience.
SVILUPPO: The President arrived in the San Damaso courtyard at 4.02pm Rome time and was, as previously noted, escorted to the apartment of the Secretary of State to meet with Bertone.
At 4.23, Barack Obama entered the papal apartment, thanking a smiling B16 for the "great honor" of their meeting.