urged U.S. President Donald Trump to be a peacemaker at their highly
anticipated first meeting on Wednesday, and Trump promised he would not
forget the pontiff’s message.
clear blue skies, Trump, who exchanged sharp words with the pope during
the U.S. election campaign last year, received a tribute from the Swiss
Guard in a Vatican courtyard when he arrived.
entered a small elevator taking him to the third floor of the Apostolic
Palace and, after a long ceremonial walk past frescoed corridors, shook
the pope’s hand at the entrance to the private study, which the frugal
pontiff uses only for official occasions.
the door of the wood-lined elevator closed, a Vatican protocol official
was heard quipping to the president that it was not “like Trump Tower
in New York”.
faintly as he greeted Trump outside the study and was not as outgoing as
he sometimes is with visiting heads of state. Trump, seeming subdued,
said “it is a great honor”.
when the two were sitting at the pope’s desk in the presence of
photographers and reporters, the pope avoided the kind of small talk
that usually occurs before the media is ushered out.
The two talked privately for about 30 minutes with translators.
men looked far more relaxed at the end of the private meeting, with the
pope smiling and joking with Trump and his wife Melania.
Francis’s interpreter could be heard translating a comment by the pope to the First Lady: “What do you give him to eat?”.
Francis then gave the president a small sculptured olive tree and told him through the interpreter that it symbolized peace.
“It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace,” the Pope said, speaking in Spanish.
Trump responded: “We can use peace.”
also gave Trump a signed copy of his 2017 peace message whose title is
“Nonviolence – A Style of Politics for Peace,” and a copy of his 2015
encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the
effects of climate change.
“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Trump said.
softer stance on environmental regulations is at odds with Francis’
view that climate change is caused mostly by human activity.
Trump gave the pope a boxed set of five first-edition books by murdered U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Trump and the pope said goodbye at the door of the study, Trump told
the pope: “Thank you, thank you. I won’t forget what you said.” Trump
met separately with top Vatican diplomats and visited the Sistine Chapel
before leaving the Vatican.
Vatican statement said the meeting was “cordial” and that the Vatican
hoped there could be “serene collaboration” between the U.S. government
and the American Catholic Church, including “assistance to immigrants”.
The U.S. Catholic Church hierarchy opposes
Trump’s attempt to cut federal assistance for cities that give sanctuary
to illegal immigrants.
opposes his plan to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. The
pope said last year a man who thinks about building walls and not
bridges is “not Christian”.
who was a candidate at the time, responded that it was “disgraceful” of
the Argentine-born pope, who represents just over half of the world’s
two billion Christians, to question his faith.
meeting with the pope was the third stop on a nine-day foreign tour due
to end on Saturday, and part of his world tour of religions after
meeting leaders of Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia and visiting holy
sites in Jerusalem.
talks in Saudi Arabia and Israel were mostly friendly, the meeting
between the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the thrice-married,
blunt-spoken Trump had the potential to be a little more
The Vatican also
took a dim view of Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric, although he
softened his tone considerably in a major speech in Riyadh.
at first did not plan to stop in Rome during his visit to Europe, which
some in the Vatican saw as a snub. When he changed his mind, the
Vatican squeezed him in at 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, an unusual
day and an unusually early time.
After the meeting, Francis held his weekly audience with the general public in St Peter’s Square.