Pope Francis on Monday held talks with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who was visiting the Vatican in the wake of a decision by American Catholic bishops that could lead them to deny Communion to President Joe Biden.
Blinken is the highest-ranking US administration official the pontiff has met since Biden's inauguration in January.
He held 40 minutes of private talks with Pope Francis in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace after having a separate meeting with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican's foreign minister.
The visit follows a conference at which US Roman Catholic bishops voted to draft a statement on Communion that may admonish Catholic politicians, including Biden, who support a woman's right to abortion despite opposing the practice personally.
The bishops decided to move forward with the document, mostly disregarding a Vatican warning that it would be highly divisive.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken in his talks with Parolin and Gallagher discussed various topics including "human rights and religious freedom in China."
Since the Vatican and Beijing signed an agreement in 2018 on the naming of bishops in China, critics of the deal have appealed to the Vatican to speak out more about religious freedom in Hong Kong and mainland China.
NATO took a tough line on China at Biden's debut summit earlier this month.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the atmosphere was cordial and that it gave the pope a chance "to express his affection for and attention to, the people of the United States of America."
The Vatican and the Biden administration agree on the dangers of climate change, which was a main point of contention with the White House while Donald Trump was president.
Trump was dismissive of the problem as he dismantled climate policies and regulations on fossil fuels.
The pope criticised Trump's withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris accord to limit global warming. The Vatican welcomed Biden's return to the accord.
Blinken gave the pope a gold and silver sculpture of a dove holding an olive branch and pope gave him copies of several of his writings, including the landmark 2015 encyclical "Laudado Si" on the protection of the environment