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Pope and U.S. president meet at the Vatican

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Life, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience discussed
By Hannah Brockhaus


Photo: Pope Francis talks with U.S. President Donald Trump during a private audience at the Vatican May 24. (Credit: Paul Haring / CNS)

After months of anticipation, Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump finally met at the Vatican May 24 in a friendly encounter that included an emphasis on protection of life and freedom of conscience.

According to a May 24 Vatican communiqué, Pope Francis and Trump expressed satisfaction "for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience."

The Pope and Trump met at the Vatican at 8:30 a.m., immediately before the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Trump arrived in Italy the day before after stopping in both Saudi Arabia and Israel as part of his first international trip. Afterward he went to a NATO meeting in Brussels and a G7 summit in Sicily before returning to the U.S.

President Trump arrived at the Vatican via the side entrance by Casa Santa Marta around 8:15 a.m. and was greeted by a group of Swiss Guards in the San Damaso courtyard.

After stepping out of the car, Trump and First Lady Melania greeted Archbishop Georg Ganswein and other Vatican dignitaries before entering the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis and Trump smiled as they sat down at the Pope’s desk in the papal library. Francis said, “Welcome!” and Trump responded, “Thank you very much, this is such a great honour.”

Smiling, the Pope explained that he doesn't speak English well and needs a translator, but added that he was “very happy to meet” Trump.

After the cameras left the two began the private portion of their conversation, which lasted about 30 minutes. In addition to Pope Francis and Trump, only the Pope's English translator, Msgr. Mark Miles, was present.

During the "cordial discussions," the two expressed hope for peaceful collaboration between the government and the Catholic Church in the United States, that the Church may be "engaged in service to the people in the fields of health care, education, and assistance to immigrants," a Vatican communiqué on the meeting said.

Pope Francis and President Trump also exchanged views "on various themes relating to international affairs, the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities."

After their formal conversation, gifts were exchanged between Francis, Trump and the president’s official delegation. There were 12 people in his entourage, including First Lady Melania; Trump’s daughter and assistant Ivanka, and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Also present for the meeting with Pope Francis were U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs H.R. McMaster, and Louis Bono, interim American Chargé d'Affaires to the Holy See until Calista Gingrich is officially approved as ambassador. 

Despite their differing opinions on climate change, Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as copies of his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family Amoris Laetitia and his 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

Francis also gave Trump a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, saying: “I signed it personally for you.” Trump responded that he would be reading them.

The Pope presented the U.S. president with a medallion he said symbolized peace and unity, which, after the translator explained in English, he added in Spanish: “Have it so that you become an instrument of peace.” In response, Trump said that “we can use peace.”

On his part, Trump gave Pope Francis a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., saying: “I think you’ll enjoy them; I hope you do."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 12:07  

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