The White House says it has no major political goals for Wednesday's meeting.
"I would not expect a robust discussion of a political agenda. But rather, I think it's an opportunity for the two men to talk about the values that they have in common," spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Obama and the pope agree that the 53-year-old embargo against Cuba should be lifted.
On the plane from Cuba, Francis told reporters he hopes the United States will lift the embargo as a result of negotiations between the two countries but does not plan to raise it in his address to Congress this week.
Tens of thousands of people, both Catholic admirers and curious onlookers, are expected to pack the streets around the Washington Monument and National Mall for a papal parade after the White House meeting.
"I am very excited to have him here. I have had the privilege of seeing three popes and I hope to see this one as well," said Mary Fontaine, as she headed into a lunchtime Mass at a Washington church on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Francis becomes the first pope to address Congress and then travels to New York to address the United Nations and visit the Ground Zero memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He closes his trip on Sunday in Philadelphia at a worldwide Catholic gathering on family issues. The concluding Mass there is expected to draw some 1.5 million people.