Ever since Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Bishop of Rome (then Pope John XXII) in the late 1950s, each president after him has chosen to meet with the pontiff. Of course the only Catholic American president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was granted “one of the longest private audiences” ever with a pope, when he visited Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in July 1963. Then there was memorably the joint public appearance of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II at Alaska’s Fairbanks International Airport in 1984. 5,000 people showed up from America’s most northern wilderness: they waved welcome banners and sold a variety of “I Was There” souvenir coins to each other.
Micah White at Biography.com does a excellent job highlighting Famous President-Pope Visits. Last week, before Barack Obama’s visit with Pope Francis, White wished the world could witness the first presidential/papal fist pump. Sorry, Micah. Mr. Obama may have a better chance of fist bumping the high priest sort on a visit with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has been photographed fist bumping Mayor Myron Lowery of Memphis and musician Dave Matthews.