President Donald Trump has been on an enervating inaugural international trip, visiting the original homes of the three most widely supported monotheistic religions in the world. On his final stop of the tour, Donald Trump traveled to the Vatican City in Rome to meet with Pope Francis.
Known for his kind and gentle nature, Pope Francis has expressed criticism of Trump about his controversial policies. Among the policies Pope Francis does not approve of are Trump’s approaches to climate change and immigration. However, the Pope did commit to being open-minded and sincere during Trump’s visit.
“Even if one thinks differently we have to be very sincere about what each one thinks. Topics will emerge in our conversations. I will say what I think and he will say what he thinks. But I have never wanted to make a judgment without first listening to the person.”
On Wednesday, May 24, a poker-faced Pope Francis sat down with Donald Trump to discuss religious symbolism and ancient protocol during a 30-minute long private meeting. The two major world leaders gathered in the Sala del Tronetto “room with the little throne” on the second floor of the Apostolic Palace.
According to Reuters, Donald Trump seemed a little uneasy while making his way to the Sala del Tronetto. Trump was accompanied by the First Lady, Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka, one of his top aides, Jared Kushner, national security advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House aide Hope Hicks.
After the meeting between the Pope and Trump concluded, the president and pontiff emerged more relaxed, with Pope Francis smiling faintly while posing for a few photographs. Trump could be heard telling the Pope that it was “a great honor” to meet him.
Pope Francis and Donald Trump exchanged gifts; a sculpture of an olive tree for Trump and a set of Martin Luther King writings for the Pope.
The apprehension that seemed to underpin the start of their meeting was possibly a residue of tension following a heated exchange between the Pope and Trump during last year’s presidential campaign. Pope Francis expressed concern over Trump’s pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.”
Trump responded to the criticism by noting that the Pope has “an awfully big wall at the Vatican.” At first, Trump was full of praise for the Pope, but the tone of his rhetoric pivoted upon hearing of the Pope’s comments on Trump’s proposed policies.
“I heard the pope and I respect the pope and I love the pope in many ways. I love what he stands for and I like his attitude. He’s very independent and he’s very different. I really respect the fact that he sees both sides. You know a lot of people are inflexible – they won’t change.”
However, after learning of the Pope’s criticism, Trump went into retaliation mode.
“For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian and as President I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now, with our current President. No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
Trump went even further to say that “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS,” which Trump claims is “ISIS’s ultimate trophy,” the Pope would probably wish that Donald Trump, as president, would’ve prevented such an attack. Trump also alleged that the government of Mexico was “using the Pope as a pawn and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so.”
Despite these heated barbs, both leaders seemed to have put their differences aside for their meeting in the Vatican City. Before departing, the Pope gave Trump a signed copy of a speech he had made on World Peace Day last year. The Pope also gave Trump some of his most critical writings on climate change.
Trump promised to read the writings, and as he left, he thanked the pontiff, saying that he wouldn’t forget what the Pope had told him during their private meeting.
[Featured Image by Alessandra Tarantino/AP Images]