Poland's president first visits Vatican

Poland's new President Lech Kaczynski travels Wednesday to the Vatican on his first foreign trip since taking office, a journey that underlines the social conservative's commitment to Roman Catholic values. Kaczynski and his wife, Maria Kaczynska, are to be received in a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday during their two-day trip, the presidential office said.

The president is also to meet with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state, for discussions that will touch on the pope's planned visit in May to Poland, the homeland of Benedict's predecessor John Paul II. Kaczynski also plans to lay flowers at John Paul's grave.

In Rome, Kaczynski will also meet with the Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, for talks to focus on European issues and security. Both Italy and Poland are U.S. allies in Iraq.

Kaczynski and his Law and Justice party, which also leads the government, strongly supports the Catholic church and its opposition to abortion and gay marriage. He was inaugurated Dec. 23 after defeating a pro-market candidate in October balloting, reports the AP. N.U.