Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is in Rome for a two-day working visit which includes an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Mr Najib’s visit to the Vatican was planned before street protests rocked the Malaysian capital two weekends ago.
The scheduled meeting with Pope Benedict XVI is essentially to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
Malaysia is among 16 countries in the world that have no diplomatic ties with the Roman Catholic church.
Even Muslim countries like Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan have existing diplomatic links with the Vatican.
But this is not the first meeting between a Malaysia prime minister and the head of the Catholic church.
In 2002, then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad met Pope John Paul II in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks in the US, to talk about Muslim-Christian relations.
Malaysia is seen as a voice of moderate Islam and Mr Najib wants to build on the country’s standing in promoting interfaith relations which remains a challenge both back home and abroad.