Trump to Pope Francis at the Vatican: 'We can use peace'
Wednesday - 24/05/2017 21:04
In a momentous visit to the Vatican, President Trump and the Pope had a gift exchange on Wednesday.
ATICAN CITY — President Trump promised to take privately-exchanged words with Pope Francis to heart Wednesday, after the two met for the first time at the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Italy.
“Thank you. Thank you. I won't forget what you said,” Trump told Francis at the end of the visit. The leaders held a 30-minute closed door meeting before taking part in a joint photo session and exchanging gifts.
Photos taken before the meeting showed Trump smiling broadly, while the pope appeared stern. However, the pontiff appeared to emerge from the talks with a more upbeat outlook.
"Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world," Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world. pic.twitter.com/JzJDy7pllI
The Argentina-born Francis spoke in his native Spanish, with an interpreter on hand. He gave Trump a signed and bound copy of his remarks from the last World Peace Day in September, and a set of English-language translations of his papal writings including Laudato Si, his 2015 encyclical on climate change. Trump is a noted climate skeptic.
“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Trump said. “We can use peace," he added.
Trump’s gift to Francis was a boxed set of the writings of Martin Luther King Jr., who Francis has expressed admiration for in the past.
The pope also asked first lady Melania Trump, who was born in Slovenia, “What do you give him [Trump] to eat, potizza?” She repeated "potizza," which is a Slovenian baked treat.
A U.S. flag was prominently hung from one of the Vatican buildings facing St. Peter’s Square in honor of Trump’s visit.
The two men exchanged verbal jabs during last year’s presidential campaign, with Francis saying Trump’s views were not those of a Christian. Trump responded that the pontiff’s remarks were “disgraceful.”
Pope Francis and President Donald Trump met at the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City on Wednesday. Trump's audience with the pontiff comes midway through his 9-day international trip. (May 24) AP
On Wednesday, the two were cordial, if not friendly, at least in public.
In a statement, the Vatican expressed hope that the encounter would be the start of a “serene collaboration” with the Trump administration. It said Trump and Francis covered topics including health care, education, migration, international affairs, and interreligious dialogue. There were no details of what was said.
“I’m sure that behind closed doors the both men spoke very frankly,” said Giampaolo Malgeri, a professor of political science and international relations at Rome’s LUMSA Catholic University. Malgeri said the most important aspect of the meeting was to establish new ties between the White House and the Holy See.
“It’s important to both sides that there are open lines of communication,” Malgeri added.
Trump’s visit to Rome is his third stop on a nine-day international trip that has seen him travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel, completing a tour of the spiritual homelands of the world’s three main monotheistic religions.
The Italian media dubbed the encounter the “G-2” — a play on the G-7, or Group of Seven, summit of world leaders Trump will attend later in the week in Sicily.
The audience with Francis was a late addition to Trump’s agenda. It came 124 days into his presidency, earlier than any of the 29 other meetings between a U.S. leader and a pontiff. The previous record was held by George H.W. Bush, who visited Pope John Paul II 127 days into his presidency in 1989.
Trump touched down amid a security lockdown in the Italian capital. Roads were barricaded and onlookers were kept at a distance. Residents held several protests against the U.S. president. Anti-Trump banners that were hung from prominent bridges and at the landmark Castel Sant’Angelo near the Vatican were removed before Trump passed by. There were no significant reports of violence.
Americans USA TODAY spoke to in Rome were mostly critical of Trump.
“I don’t know what will change from this meeting,” said Elise Sanders, 33, a Gaffney, S.C. native working as a primary school teacher in Rome. “We may get a riveting tweet or two from the president. But in the end, it probably just means a day of bad traffic in Rome and politics as usual after everyone goes home.”
“These kinds of meetings have to happen, but I don’t see either man changing the views of the other in any important way,” added Frank Allen Reynolds, 55, a tour guide from Staten Island, NY.
Veronica Rossi, 22, a university student from Italy, was more philosophical. “I hold out hope that the Holy Father can help President Trump soften some of his views and that Trump can help Francis understand his priorities,” Rossi said.
The Trump entourage — which included Trump’s daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and national security advisor H.R. McMaster — also visited the Sistine Chapel. The first lady toured the pediatric care unit at the Bambino Gesu hospital on the outskirts of the Vatican city-state.
"She spoke to them in Italian, she signed bandages and she took lots of selfies!" said Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump's press secretary. "She personally wrote a letter to the Pope asking to go. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa have both visited as well."
President Trump was scheduled to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni later in the day. It will be Trump’s second meeting with Gentiloni, who traveled to Washington on a state visit last month.