President Donald Trump and Pope Francis put aside their differences on Wednesday in a face-to-face meeting at The Vatican. It was the first time Trump met Pope Francis, who had been critical of plans to build “walls not bridges.”
Trump first met with Pope Francis early in the morning in Italy, just before 9:00 a.m. local time. The President and First Lady Melania Trump had a private audience with the Pope and photos were taken. During the meeting, the Pope Francis asked Trump to be a peacemaker and urged him not to forget his message of peace.
According to the White House pool report, Trump and the Pope exchanged gifts. Trump gave the Pope three first edition books of Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings. The set included Stride Toward Freedom (1958), The Measure of a Man (1959), The Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964) and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967).
The Pope gave Trump the three books he traditionally gives visiting heads of state – Amoris Laetitia, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. He also gave Trump a World Day of Peace medal, which he signed “personally” for Trump.
The White House pool reporters also noticed that the Pope asked Melania an interesting question. “What do you give him to eat, potizza?” the Pope asked, referring to a Slovenian dessert.
After the meeting, Trump also shared a video and said he is now “more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”
Trump and the Pope had a frosty relationship before, as the Pope appeared to be critical of Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexico border and said anyone who wants to build a “walls not bridges” is “not Christian.” Trump called the Pope’s comments “disgraceful,” but he told CNN days later that he didn’t really want to have a fight with His Holiness. The Pope’s representatives later said he was only speaking generally.
“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.”
Trump’s visit with the Pope came right in the middle of his first overseas trip as President. During the first half, Trump’s theme was pursuing peace among three of the world’s major religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. After visiting with the Pope, his trip turns political. He’ll attend a NATO summit in Brussels before returning to Italy for the G7 summit in Sicily.