VATICAN CITY (CNA) — At the end of the June 1 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI greeted NBC anchors Matt Lauer and Al Roker, as they prepared to air the Today show from the Vatican.

During their brief encounter, Lauer presented the Pope with a crystal cat.

“We had heard that this Pope has a real love for cats,” Lauer said in an interview with ABC. “He seemed to accept it and like it and, anyway, we just wanted to offer him some gift to show our appreciation for the time and generosity he showed us.”

Today show producer Jim Bell told TVNewser that the Vatican was “a particular passion” for late NBC Washington Bureau chief Tim Russert.
Russert had his own audience with Pope Benedict XVI days before he died of a heart attack.

“Tim and I had been working on a trip for Today that he was going to be a part of,” Bell explained.

Bell and Russert were planning a trip to the Vatican for the Today show but decided to postpone the project when the 2008 election started to heat up.

“A trip to the Vatican and an audience with Pope Benedict still ranked high on the show’s to-do list,” Bell said.

The episode, which aired June 2, was originally scheduled for March but had to be postponed because of a heavy news cycle. The show gave viewers “a rare look at the Pope behind the scenes as he prepares to address the crowd at St. Peter’s Square,” according to NBC.