U.S Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attended a ceremony with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican this morning.
After the ceremony Panetta approached His Holiness where Catholics customarily kiss the pope’s ring. (I couldn’t see the gesture from my vantage point but two photographers with us captured the moment).
The Pope told Panetta: “Thank you for helping to protect the world.”
Panetta responded: “Pray for me.”
It’s not Panetta’s first audience with a pope, but it is the first time he met Benedict.
He had an audience with John Paul II, once with President Clinton at Rome and a second time in Washington.
Panetta is on day three of a weeklong trip to Europe that includes stops in Portugal, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.
This afternoon the defense secretary is expected to meet with the Italian government leaders.