Trump to pope: 'I won't forget what you said'

Candice Alexander
May 24, 2017

Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden worldwide journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol.

The two men then posed for photograghs and the pope kept a stern face while Trump beamed for the cameras.

Francis 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.

"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", Trump said during the campaign.

The Pope's gift left no questions about its symbolism, presenting Trump with an olive tree medal crafted by a Roman artist that the Pope said symbolizes peace.

"We can use peace", the president replied.

Trump arrived for a short private audience at the Apostolic Palace along with his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

As the president was leaving their meeting on Wednesday he told the pope, "I won't forget what you said".

The Vatican described the discussions as "cordial" and stressed the two men's joint opposition to abortion and shared concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

That prompted a fierce response from Trump, who fired back by calling Francis' judgmental comment "disgraceful".

Trump later tweeted that it had been an "honor of a lifetime" to meet the pope.

The border wall is an issue where Pope Francis and President Trump have a very clear and public difference of opinion.

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Tonight, Trump is flying to the Vatican, where he's slated to meet with Pope Francis on Wednesday. Trump has repeatedly underscored US support for Israel during his first global trip as president.

When the pope met the First Lady, who was born in Slovenia, he asked her: "What do you give him to eat, potica?" a reference to a Slovenian pastry.

Part of Trump's motivation for meeting the pope was to dramatise how the three major religions should rally against the threat from Islamist militants.

Last week, the pope said he'd "never make a judgment about a person without hearing him out" when asked about the president.

Community officials said several women will chat with Trump. The president said he was delivering "books from Martin Luther King".

The meeting was keenly awaited as the two men have already clashed at a distance on issues, including migration and climate change, BBC reported.

And even the pontiff's congratulatory message sent to mark Trump's inauguration contained a sly reference to their disagreement, as the Pope wrote that he hoped the United States' global stature would "continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need".

After the meeting, Trump met with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Trump's visit to the Vatican is part of his first trip overseas as president, and follows an initial leg in Saudi Arabia and a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. "Instead, I think their agendas really don't converge much, and thus I don't see much opportunity for working partnership".

Speaking in Israel yesterday afternoon, he said both sides of the conflict in the region are ready for peace.

But while Trump received extravagantly warm welcomes in Riyadh and Jerusalem, the reception could grow cooler now that he's reached Europe, site of widespread protests after his election.

In Brussels, team Trump will meet European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials before returning to Italy for the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday and Saturday.

Other reports by VgToday

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