VATICAN CITY — As the March for Life got underway in Washington, DC, Pope Francis and Vice President Mike Pence met in the Vatican Friday to discuss the church's commitment to the pro-life movement.

"It was a great privilege to spend time with Pope Francis and to be able to do so on a day that literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many Catholic Americans, are gathered on our National Mall in Washington D.C. standing up for the right to life, was a particular joy for me,” Pence told EWTN News Jan. 24.

"And to hear his passion for the sanctity of life ... It was a great privilege,” Pence added.

“I believe that the church in the U.S. has been a bulwark in the right to life movement since Roe v Wade was first adopted by our Supreme Court in 1973,” the vice president said after his hour long meeting with the pope.

“In the US we see more young people everyday embracing the right to life. The numbers are growing and I know the church is playing a critical role in that and I know will continue to until we reach that day that we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law and will carry that message throughout the world,” he added.

Speaking of the March for Life taking place Jan. 24 in Washington, DC, Pence said that “on the National Mall today, among those hundreds of thousands of young people, will be an enormous number of Catholic youth.”

“They will be waving their banners of their parishes, they’ll be waving the banners of their Catholic schools, and I think continuing to educate young people about the unalienable right to life, and the fact that every child is a gift from God has been the contribution that the church has made to this cause.”

The vice president told EWTN News that Pope Francis spoke in their meeting of the great determination of the American bishops to see the church in the United States stand without apology for the sanctity of human life. The pope has been meeting with groups of U.S. bishops since November, as they travel to Rome for their ad limina visits.

Pope Francis also told Pence of his great concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the vice president said.

“Today in my discussions with Pope Francis, we spoke about a number of issues including the Pope’s great concern for Christian and religious minorities in Iraq and across the Nineveh Plains,” Pence said.

The vice president said he sought advice from the pope as to how the U.S. can work with the church to help people suffering in Venezuela.

“We also then talked about Venezuela. Pope Francis is a son of South America, and I wanted to better understand his insight about how we can together work as a global community to help restore democracy for the people of Venezuela,” Pence said.

“I sought Pope Francis’ counsel and how we can work more closely with him and with the church in Venezuela and across South and Central America to really continue to bring the kind of pressure to bear from the ground up to make it possible for the people of Venezuela to have a new birth of freedom,” he said.

“The reality is that the National Assembly has named Juan Guaidó now more than a year ago as the interim president, and democracy is waiting in the wings in Venezuela, but it will take all of us and I trust the consistent and courageous voice of the church in Venezuela to see liberty restored.”

At the Vatican, Pence also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Upon meeting the pope in the Apostolic Palace, Pence extended a greeting on behalf of President Donald Trump.

For Pence, protecting the sanctity of life is personal. “For my wife and me to stand for life in the public square is a calling, a calling of our convictions, it’s a calling of our faith,” he said.

“We think it is the most pressing moral issue of our time,” Pence added.