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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met privately with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and expressed his “affection” and “attention” to the U.S. people.

The Vatican said the two men spoke Monday for about 40 minutes, which is a good deal of time as papal audiences go, especially in view that Blinken isn’t the top U.S. administration leader.

Before his sit-down with Francis, Blinken received a guided, VIP tour of the Sistine Chapel.

Blinken also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome on his trip overseas as their governments look to turn a page on their relationship.

New leaders in both the United States and Israel are seeking to reset ties that had careered between frosty and warm over the past eight years during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump while former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in power.

Lapid told Blinken that Israel’s new government wants to rebuild ties with Democrats who control Congress. That could help Israel, which opposes an expanded Iran nuclear deal, engage in those talks.