Trump, Pope focus on message of peace
VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing world views, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.
Trump, midway through a gruelling nineday, maiden international journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol.
Neither man, unquestionably two of the most famous in the world, repeated their prior criticism of the other. The statements released afterward were deliberately vague and contained only hints of areas of disagreement. Trump smiled broadly, the Pope smiled less, but both agreed, at least for a day, to settle on the same message: the need to avoid conflict.
That theme was reflected in their words and their gifts.
The Pope, upon completing their meeting, gave the president a medal featuring an olive branch.
“We can use peace,” said the president, concurring with the symbolism.
Francis also gave a message of peace and three bound papal documents that to some degree define his papacy and priorities, including the family and the environment.
The Pope told Trump he signed the message “personally for you.” Trump said he would read the books.
In exchange, Trump presented the pontiff with a custom-bound, first-edition set of Martin Luther King Jr.’s works, an engraved stone from the King memorial in Washington and a bronze sculpture of a flowering lotus titled “Rising Above.”
“I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do,” Trump said.
When Trump departed, he told the Pope: “Thank you, I won’t forget what you said.”
The visit began with a handshake after each man arrived, Trump in a lengthy motorcade, Francis in a Ford Focus. The president was heard thanking the Pope and saying it was “a great honour” to be there. They posed for photographs and then sat down at the papal desk, the Pope unsmiling, as their private meeting began.
It ended a half-hour later when Francis rang the bell in his private study. Trump tweeted later that the meeting was the “honour of a lifetime.” A statement from the Vatican later said “satisfaction was expressed” at their “joint commitment in favour of life” and that there was hoped-for collaboration on health care, assistance to immigrants and protection of Christian communities in the Middle East.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump and the Pope talked extensively about extreme terrorist threats and extremism, and the radicalization of young people. Tillerson said climate change and migration issues came up in Trump’s meeting with the cardinal secretary of state.
First lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump and Pope Francis exchange gifts at the Vatican Wednesday. The president and the Pope met privately for 30 minutes.