trump:A lone American flag hung above the entryway to Pope Francis’ apostolic palace in Vatican City on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump arrived for the third leg of his tour of the world’s great religions.
Trump met Pope Francis on the fifth day of his first foreign presidential trip, after visiting the cradles of Islam and Judaism.
While their discussion will remain private, the president had a brief message for Francis as he left: ‘I won’t forget what you said.’
‘It’s such an honor,’ he said as he shook the Pontiff’s hand and posed for photos in the Sala del Tronetto, the second-floor ‘little throne room.’
‘Thank you very much. This is such a great honor,’ Trump was later heard saying as he and Francis sat across a desk from each other to begin their talks in his private study.
U.S. President Donald Trump has at long last met Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican
First lady Melania Trump (pictured), Ivanka Trump and senior aide Hope Hicks all wore black with conservative lace ‘mantilla’ veils as a show of respect
‘I won’t forget what you said,’ Trupm told the Pontiff after the two emerged from their private meeting in the Pope’s study
Fans of the president strained to see his motorcade pass on Wednesday along Viale della Conciliazione avenue, near St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City
The delegation who met with the Pope on Wednesday included Melania and Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chief of Oval office Operations Keith Schiller, State Department policy planning chief Brian Hooks, White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks and White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino
The famously blunt-spoken Francis said nothing.
After they emerged from their talks, Francis was grinning from ear to ear as he met other members of the first family.
‘What do you give him to eat?’ he asked Melania Trump in Italian, referring to the president’s hulking size. ‘A lot of Pizza?’
‘Pizza!?’ a delighted Melania responded, laughing.
The Pope blessed a rosary in her hand before greeting Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials.
Melania followed the Papal meeting with a visit to a Vatican-owned children’s hospital. She told Francis: ‘I’m glad to visit the hospital – for the “bambinos”.’
Ivanka’s itinerary included meeting victims of human trafficking and host a roundtable with members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a social justice-oriented anti-poverty group affiliated with the Catholic Church.
The Trumps and the Pope traded gifts after the Papal audience; Francis got a set of first-edition books by Martin Luther King Jr. and a sculpture of a lotus (left)
The Swiss Guard escorted Trump to an elevator for a quick ride upstairs to meet the Pope
The Trump’s brought two gifts for the Pope, including a case of first-edition books by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
‘I think you will enjoy them,’ he said.
The president also gave him a bronze sculpture titled ‘Rising Above,’ in the shape of a flowering lotus.
Francis reciprocated with a large medal crafted by a Roman artist – an image of an olive tree, a symbol of peace.
‘We can use peace,’ Trump replied.
‘I signed it personally for you,’ Francis told him.
‘Ooh,’ Trump said. ‘That’s so beautiful.’
The president also promised to read copies of three Papal encyclicals that Francis gave him – one of which is his ‘Laudato si,’ a treatise about preserving the environment.
The other two concern family and the Gospels.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, joined her stepmother in wearing a traditional veil to the Vatican
Melania got a greeting Wednesday from prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein
The president’s arrival was a pomp-and-circumstance affair.
Stepping out of his armored SUV, known in the U.S. as ‘The Beast,’ he joined first lady Melania Trump entering the palace as a rank of Swiss Guards stood at attention.
‘It’s an honor and a great pleasure to receive you here in the Pope’s palace,’ prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein told the president as a phalanx of cameras captured the historic moment in the San Damaso courtyard.
‘Thank you so much,’ Trump replied.
Mrs. Trump was dressed in black and wearing a black lace veil over her hair, and got her own handshake from Gaenswein.
Ivanka Trump, too, wore a tulle veil. Her husband Jared Kushner joined the entourage along with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The veil, or mantilla, is traditionally worn by women as a sign of respect when meeting the Pope. Trump senior aide Hope Hicks wore one as well.
Trump and the Pope sat across a desk in the Pontiff’s private study – the president all smiles and the Pontiff all caution – as they began their discussions on Wednesday
The president’s armored SUV, known as ‘The Beast,’ motored past a rank of Swiss Guard in the San Damaso courtyard
Neither woman, however, wore a head scarf in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, despite the local custom of Muslim women wearing hijabs in public.
Catholic women worldwide typically wore mantillas to church until the 1950s.
Melania, Ivanka and Jared sat in an anteroom while the Pope and the president held their audience, speaking with Gentlemen of His Holiness members and Gaenswein.
In the courtyard on Wednesday, Trump walked a receiving line of 15 officials of the Gentlemen of His Holiness, an honor guard of nobility, stopping to make eye contact and shake hands each time.
The president’s quick in-and-out Vatican City visit completes his global monotheism hat trick as the unconventional Pontiff and the even more unpredictable president talk turkey.
The two men went toe-to-toe during the 2016 campaign season after Francis questioned candidate Trump’s religious convictions, and the future president fired back an un-Christian putdown.
They were all smiles, however, as photographers and reporters chronicled every word, gesture and reaction.
Only when they disappeared into a Vatican inner sanctum – alone, save for a translator – did the rubber meet the strada.
First encounter: Trump’s meeting with the blunt-spoken leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics comes after their very public criticism of each other last year
On the ground: Trump arrived in Italy Tuesday with First Lady Melania Trump and was given a ceremonial welcome by Italian authorities
Vatican greeting: Senior clergy from the Vatican were on the tarmac in Rome to greet the president on Tuesday
Trump’s Saudi stay was focused on galvanizing persuadable Muslim-majority nations around a common mission of stamping out the violent jihadism that persistently threatens to tar and feather their religion.
His closely watched appearances in Jerusalem and Bethlehem were calculated to showcase Trump’s closeness with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – and his less Republican-like respect for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas – as bookended overture to a coming peace proposal.
But White House officials have been uncharacteristically mum about the president’s goals for his meeting with the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
‘He was invited by the Pope, and he’s honored to go and meet the Pope. It’s somebody he has a lot of respect for,’ a senior administration official told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.
The only hint at an agenda came when the official hopefully lumped Catholicism into an ecumenical anti-terror klatch – signaling that Trump may angle for Pope Francis to endorse his hard-line condemnation of suicide bombers.
‘When you put it all together, you’re really showing that this problem of radical extremism is one of the great problems of our time,’ the official said.
‘By putting everybody together you can really build a coalition and show that it’s not a Muslim problem, it’s not a Jewish problem, it’s not a Catholic problem, it’s not a Christian problem. It really is a world problem.’
In Israel on Tuesday, Trump denounced British Libyan terrorist Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people at a rock concert in Manchester, UK, as an ‘evil loser.’
‘I will call them from now on ‘losers’ because that’s what they are. And we’ll have more of them. But they’re losers, just remember that,’ he said, standing alongside Abbas at his West Bank presidential palace.
Francis was far more measured, not describing the attack as terrorism, nor noting that ISIS immediately claimed credit for the carnage.
‘His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester,’ a telegram sent by the Vatican secretary of state read, ‘and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence.’
The Pontiff hasn’t shied away from being more forceful in the past, and Trump has personally felt the sting of his verbal lash.
‘A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,’ Francis said then. The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a ‘moral imperative’ and ‘Christian duty’ to help.
High security: The Vatican is surrounded by soldiers and paramilitary police for the meeting of the leaders of the world’s Catholics and its only superpower
Tension: The Manchester concert attack has jangled nerves across the world and in Vatican City a bomb disposal officer inspected a suspect package as the state prepared for Trump’s arrival
Trump has never been one to let an insult, perceived or real, go by without a response, and he made no exception for the world’s best-known religious leader. He called Francis ‘disgraceful’ for doubting his faith.
In February 2016 aboard a flight home from Juarez, Mexico, the Pope pointedly criticized the then-White House hopeful’s improbable-sounding pledge to wall off the U.S. from its southern neighbor.
‘A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel,’ the Pope said then.
One focus of his trip had been a high-profile Mass celebrated on the U.S.-Mexico border, a move that enraged Trump.
‘I think the Pope is a very political person,’ he told a Fox Business Channel interviewer. ‘I think he doesn’t understand the problems our country has.’
A week later, Trump sputtered out a response on Facebook to the Jesuit pope’s upbraiding that questioned his faith.
At a point in time when he was emphasizing his border-wall plan’s potential to stop Islamic terrorists from coming to America, the bombastic billionaire let it all hang out.
‘If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s 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,’ he wrote.
And he claimed Mexican politicians had romanced Francis during his trip with only ‘one side of the story,’ saying that ‘he didn’t see the crime, the drug trafficking and the negative economic impact the current policies have on the United States.’
‘For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,’ Trump added in a dramatic hammer-blow.
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.’
After a lengthy cooling-off period, Francis has adopted a wait-and-see attitude to his meeting with America’s most famous Presbyterian.
Asked on May 13 whether he plans to toughen – or soften – his positions on global warming or immigration when he sits down with Trump, he insisted that he wasn’t about to get caught up in political calculation.’
‘We’ll talk, each of us will say what he thinks. Each of us will listen to the other,’ Francis said during a May 13 flight from Portugal to Rome.
‘I never make a judgment on a person without listening to them. I believe that I shouldn’t do this.’
‘In our talk, things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks,’ Francis said.
Trump will fly to Brussels after his Vatican visit, attending a NATO summit on Thursday. From there he heads back to Italy – further south, on the island of Sicily – for a G7 meeting.
In addition to his audience with the Pope, the president will have brief bilateral talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.