Pentagon chief Panetta meets Pope Benedict

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Associated Press

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 6:07 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 16 at 6:33 AM

VATICAN CITY (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the leader of the world's largest military, has met Pope Benedict XVI, the world's best known advocate for peace, at the Vatican.

Panetta was in the front row at Wednesday's weekly general audience in the Vatican auditorium. As many as 1,000 people were crowded into the room.

After the Pope addressed the gathering, Panetta and several staff members lined up to meet the pontiff, who gave them rosaries.

Panetta, a staunch Catholic, is in Rome as part of a weeklong swing across Europe, meeting with defense ministers to talk about ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Mali. This is expected to be Panetta's last overseas trip as Pentagon chief.

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