Pope Francis granted a 1-hour audience to President Obama yesterday inside the Vatican. Everyone was all smiles, and the highlight of the conversation had to do with global poverty, of course. And then there were gifts.
Obama presented the Holy Father with a nice wooden chest with fruit and nut seeds used in the White House Garden to be planted in the Vatican gardens, the proceeds of which could, according to the President, "be given to the charity of the Pope's choice." This is understandable since the White House is bursting with fruits and nuts and can obviously afford to get rid of a few.
The wooden seed chest was made from recycled pews used by nuns (remember those?) back in the old days. Robert S. Reier, the Baltimore basilica’s operations manager, collected about three pounds of wood at the request of the U.S. State Department in early March. It was "salvaged from mahogany pews that once stood in the sisters’ gallery, where Carmelites attended Mass behind a drawn curtain."
In return the Pope gave the President a couple of medals and a copy of his apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," which the President said he would read in the Oval Office in order to help calm his frustrations, no doubt over plummeting presidential approval numbers.
Curiously, in the middle of it all, the metal presentation stand being used to prop up the gifts repeatedly gave way and went crashing to the floor, drawing horrified expressions from the Vatican's protocol monsignors and even "a look" from the President himself. Eventually, aides gave up on using the table and apparently weren't able to prop up the respective gifs.
Hmmm, now what do you make of that?