President Trump had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on Wednesday, receiving messages about peace, the environment and immigrants from the religious leader. The meeting came a year after the pope suggested Trump “is not Christian” because of his plan for a U.S-Mexico border wall.
Their encounter was smooth and brief, lasting about 30 minutes. The two leaders smiled as they posed for photos and Trump introduced first lady Melania Trump, along with his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.
“At the end of the audience, the pope gave Trump copies of his writings,” NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome, “including his encyclical on climate change — a topic on which Trump has a very different opinion.”
The pair exchanged several gifts; Trump gave Francis books by Martin Luther King Jr.; the pope also gave Trump an emblem of an olive tree, representing the need to pursue peace.
“We can use peace,” the president replied.
As they shook hands in farewell, Trump told the pontiff, “I won’t forget what you said,” adding that the pope should call on him for help.
After the meeting, Trump met with Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni — a session that pool reporters were allowed to visit. When asked about meeting Francis, Trump said it had gone very well.
“He is something,” Trump said, according to the pool report. “We had a fantastic meeting.”
“We’re liking Italy very, very much and it was an honor to be with the pope,” the president said.
Trump later said via Twitter that it had been an “honor of a lifetime” to meet the pope. He added, “I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”
Last year’s criticism of then-candidate Trump came from Francis in February, after Trump unveiled a key goal of his presidential campaign: walling off the U.S. border with Mexico.
“I’d just say that this man is not Christian if he said it in this way,” the pope told reporters after visiting Mexico. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
In response, Trump said, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
Before that spat, Trump had mostly praised Francis, congratulating Catholics on the choice of the new pope in 2013 and saying via Twitter, “People that know him love him!”
Today’s meeting included an exchange of handshakes between first lady Melania Trump and the pope — during which the pontiff asked her what she feeds the president.
“Pizza,” the first lady answered, and they shared a laugh as Trump smiled.
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