The exchange of gifts is a de rigueur part of every papal audience, but Thursday’s presentation had an unusually loud element. A metal support stilt holding up the top of President Barack Obama’s gift – a chest of seeds from the White House garden – twice crashed onto the marble floor of the pope’s library when photographers banged into the table holding it.
“These, I think, are carrots,” Obama told the pope as he pulled out a blue velvet pouch from the seed chest.
The White House said the gift was inspired by Pope Francis’s decision to open to the public the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence in the hills south of Rome. The 55 hectares (135 acres) of gardens actually cover more ground than Vatican City and include gardens of herbs, roses, fountains and fish ponds.
‘Staring contest. Go!’
Pope Benedict XVI spent the first two months of his retirement there, and popes for centuries have spent at least part of the hot summer months there. But Francis has decided not to use the retreat, preferring to work through the summer from his headquarters at the Vatican hotel.
‘Oh, Francis. You really get me’
The White House said that, in addition to the gift of seeds, it would donate even more seeds to a charity in Francis’s honor that will yield “several tons of fresh produce.”
‘I trust you’ve played Chutes and Ladders before, Barack?’
“This gift honors the commitment of Your Holiness to sow the seeds of global peace for future generations,” the White House said in its description of the gift.