Queen Elizabeth meets privately with Pope Francis

A week after Pope Francis welcomed President Obama to the Vatican, he has another high-profile visitor: Britain's Queen Elizabeth.

CBS News' Mark Phillips said the meeting between the Pope and The Queen is a bit of a happy accident. The Queen was supposed to come to Italy before Francis became pope, but the trip had to be postponed. So instead, there is a meeting between two of the world's iconic figures

Queen Elizabeth doesn't travel much anymore. She's about to turn 88. Her husband Prince Philip, who's 92, has had a series of health issues lately. But his day-trip to Italy is a full day.

Officially, this is a visit with the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. He's a friend of the queen's and enticed her to drop by saying she could also squeeze in a chat with the pope.

Queen Elizabeth -- now in the sixth decade of her reign -- has met five popes.

This is being billed as an informal encounter, a chance for a cup of tea, and not in the elegant setting of the Apostolic Palace, but in a meeting room elsewhere in the Vatican. Pope Francis still seems to prefer less ostentatious venues for the exercise of papal power.

There's been a well worn path to Francis' door since his election. President Obama was there just last week. Russian President Vladimir Putin was here late last year. It can be useful for a politician of whatever stripe to be seen with a pope with this kind of popularity.

And Vatican writers -- like Massimo Franco -- see another reason.

"The church, the catholic church, is coming back on the international stage as a mediator so its a key position for all the leaders all the west to come and greet the pope," he said.

To see Mark Phillips' full report, watch the video in the player above