In the meeting, the Pope gave Trump the usual gifts he gives other heads of state – the documents Amoris Laetitia, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. He also gave Trump the 2017 World Day of Peace message about nonviolence. The Pope told Trump that he signed the message “personally for you,” according to the White House pool report. He also presented Trump with a sculpture.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump was seemingly having wars of words with everyone, he had a strange feud with the Pope, who was not a fan of Trump’s border wall idea. Trump, who is Presbyterian, responded by saying it was “disgraceful” for the Pope to question his faith.
Trump met with the Pope at 8:40 a.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET) and then participated in an expanded audience with the Pope. In between meetings with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, Trump will also tour the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s relationship with the Pope.
1. Pope Francis Said a Person Who ‘Thinks Only of Building Walls & Not Bridges is Not Christian’
Pope Francis first commented on Trump’s border wall plan in February 2016 at the end of a trip through Mexico. The fist Pope born in Latin America said in an interview, “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,” The BBC reports.
Francis was then asked if Americans should vote for Trump. “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and I will give him the benefit of the doubt,” Francis replied.
2. Trump Called the Pope’s Statements ‘Disgraceful’ & Suggested the Mexican Government Was Using the Pope
During a rally in South Carolina days after the pope’s comments, Trump said it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question his faith, The New York Times notes.
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” Trump told his supporters, adding that he thinks the Mexican government was using the pope for political purposes. Trump also suggested that he would even be better at defending Christianity than other leaders.
“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened,” Trump said.
Jerry Falwell Jr. backed Trump in the Trump vs. Pope feud, telling CNN in February, “Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run a country.”
Trump later told CNN that the Pope was one person he didn’t really want to fight. He called the Pope a “wonderful guy” and he likes “what he represents.”
“I don’t think this is a fight,” Trump told CNN. “I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media.”
The Rev. Federico Lombardi also said in February 2016 that the Pope’s words weren’t meant to be a direct critique of Trump. “It didn’t intend to be in any way neither a personal attack nor an indication in how to vote,” Lombardo told Vatican Radio at the time.
3. Pope Francis Said Society Should Create ‘Walls Not Bridges’ & Said a Christian Can’t Say ‘I’ll Make You Pay for That’
Pope Francis again brought up the “walls not bridges” theme a year later. He said during a speech that people should create “walls not bridges.” It sounded like a specific rebuttal of Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially when the Pope added that it is not Christian to then force someone else to pay for a wall you built.
Francis told his audience about a Christian who called “to not raise walls but bridges, to not respond to evil with evil, to overcome evil with good,” reports Reuters.
Fraincs continued, “A Christian can never say ‘I’ll make you pay for that’. Never! That is not a Christian gesture. An offense is overcome with forgiveness, by living in peace with everyone.”
The Pope didn’t mention Trump by name, but many interpreted his comments as another critique on Trump’s wall plan.
4. Pope Francis Said in His Official Message to Trump That He Hopes America Will be ‘Measured Above All By Its Concern for the Poor’
Pope Francis did release a cordial official message to Trump on the day of his inauguration in January. The Pope told Trump that he hopes America’s “stature [will] continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor” during his administration.
“At a time when our human family is beset by grave humanitarian crises demanding far-sighted and united political responses, I pray that our decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide,” the statement read.
“It will be a meeting without ‘walls,'” the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a close associate of the Pope and the editor of the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, told CNN about Trump’s meeting with the Pope.
The Pope has also said that he doesn’t want to judge Trump and will not use the meeting to persuade Trump on political issues.
“Always there are doors that are not closed,” Pope Francis said, notes CNN. “Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step.”
5. The Pope Never Specifically Condemned Trump’s Immigration Executive Orders
Although a website called Bipartisan Report claimed Pope Francis condemned Trump’s immigration executive order, the Pope never did that.
Snopes points out that the Pope did once say it was hypocritical to “call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee.” However, he said that before Trump was elected president.
According to the Catholic Herald, the comments came from a speech Pope Francis gave in Germany in October 2016. The Pope was referencing anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe and abroad, not just a specific U.S. executive order. Germany has seen an influx of refugees from war-torn regions of the world, particularly those escaping the Syrian Civil War.
“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” Francis said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”