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Trump, Pope Francis Meet at Vatican    05/24 06:13

   President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles 
and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican on Wednesday, setting aside their 
previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

   VATICAN CITY (AP) -- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders 
with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, 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 grueling nine-day, maiden international journey, 
called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious 
symbolism and ancient protocol. The president, accompanied by his wife and 
several aides, arrived at the Vatican just after 8 a.m. local time. The 
president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, 
on the second floor of Apostolic Palace.

   Upon completing their meeting, the pope gave the president a medal featuring 
an olive branch, a symbol of peace, among other gifts.

   "We can use peace," the president responded.

   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 honor" 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. 
The pontiff was then introduced to members of Trump's delegation, including his 
wife Melania, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as 
aides Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino.

   Smiling for the staff, Francis had a light moment with the first lady, 
asking via translator, "What do you give him to eat, potizza?" referring to a 
favorite papal dessert from her native Slovenia.

   The first lady laughed and said "Yes." She and Ivanka covered their heads in 
a sign of papal respect, a gesture they did not partake in Saudi Arabia.

   As is tradition, the pope and president exchanged gifts. 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.

   The pope presented Trump with the medal, 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.

   When Trump departed, he told the pope: "Thank you, I won't forget what you 
said."

   Later, as he met with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump said of 
the pope: "He is something."

   "We had a fantastic meeting," the president said. "It was an honor to be 
with the pope."

   A statement released by the Vatican later said "satisfaction was expressed" 
at their "joint commitment in favor of life" and that there was hoped-for 
collaboration on health care and assistance to immigrants and protection of 
Christian communities in the Middle East.

   In recent days, Francis and Trump have been in agreement on a need for 
Muslim leaders to do more against extremists in their own communities. But 
there are few other areas where their views align.

   The president's prior anti-Muslim rhetoric --- including his musing that 
Islam "hates" the West --- is the antithesis of what the pope has been 
preaching about a need for dialogue with Muslims. Francis also differs sharply 
with Trump on the need to combat climate change and economic inequality.

   Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, had a private audience with Francis at 
the Vatican in 2014 that lasted 50 minutes. But the timing Wednesday was tight 
as Francis had his weekly Wednesday general audience. The thousands of pilgrims 
on hand forced Trump's motorcade to enter Vatican City from a side entrance 
rather than the grand entrance through St. Peter's Square.

   The meeting, which concluded Trump's tour of the world's largest 
monotheistic religions, comes after the president and pope collided head-on 
early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump's campaign pledge 
to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that 
the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

   "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and 
not building bridges, is not Christian," Francis said at the time. 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.

   Trump then called Francis "disgraceful" for doubting his faith.

   Though both Trump and Francis are known for their unpredictability, papal 
visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and 
religious theater that follow a specific program, with little room for 
deviation or unwanted surprises. Trump, the 13th president to visit the 
Vatican, was also given a tour of the Sistine Chapel.

   Trump's visit to the Eternal City follows two stops in the Middle East where 
he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism. In Saudi Arabia, he addressed 
dozens of Arab leaders and urged them to fight extremists at home and isolate 
Iran, which he depicted as menace to the region. And in Israel, Trump 
reaffirmed his commitment to strong ties with the nation's longtime ally and 
urged Israelis and the Palestinians to begin the process of reaching a peace 
deal. No details or timetable have yet to be established for negotiations.

   But while Trump received extravagantly warm welcomes in Riyadh and 
Jerusalem, the reception could grow much now that he's reached Europe, site of 
widespread protests after his election. Climate change activists projected the 
words "Planet Earth First" on the massive dome of St. Peter's Basilica at the 
Vatican Tuesday night and protests are expected later in the week when Trump 
travels to Brussels for a NATO meeting and Sicily for a G-7 gathering.


(KA)

 
 
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