Trump is more determined to pursue peace after visit to the Vatican.
In a brief, notably awkward encounter, President Donald J. Trump met with Pope Francis Wednesday, the highly-regarded leader of the Catholic Church around the world. The meeting at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace lasted about 30 minutes, occurring a year after the two had a controversial verbal sparring, where the pope responded to Trump’s plan to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall, calling the act of building walls un-Christian. Trump at that time responded through Twitter: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

Trump’s motorcade rolled into the Apostolic palace at 8:20 am. He emerged with wife Melania from an armored Chevrolet sport utility vehicle wearing a dark suit, white shirt and black and white striped tie. Presidential daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, were also present. Melania and Ivanka wore black dresses with long sleeves and black veils. The pope arrived a few minutes earlier in a blue Ford Focus.

Trump had a glowing recollection of the short visit, saying that it was “fantastic,” upon speaking to reporters after the meeting. “We’re liking Italy very, very much, and it was an honor to be with the pope,” he enthused. The two leaders talked about terrorism and the radicalization of youth and Trump was the recipient of messages about the environment, peace and immigrants from the pontiff. Although the pope’s mood seemed a bit somber in the beginning, the atmosphere lightened up when the two exchanged gifts. Pope Francis gave Trump copies of his writing, “including his encyclical on climate change – a topic on which Trump has a very different opinion,” NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports. The pope also gave Trump a personally signed copy of his most recent World Day of Peace message.

The U.S. president gave Francis literature by Martin Luther King Jr., while the pope also gave him an emblem of an olive tree, symbolic of the mission of pursuing peace. To this Trump replied, “We can use peace.” Francis then said, “It is with all hope that you may become an olive tree to make peace.” When they shook hands to bid goodbye, Trump told the pope, “I won’t forget what you said,” and said the leader of the Catholic world should call on him when he needs help. As many would expect, Trump tweeted about the visit which the Vatican called “cordial.” He posted in social media that meeting the pope was an “honor of a lifetime.” He asserted, “I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue peace in our world.”

A Vatican spokesperson said: “Satisfaction was expressed 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. It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants. The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and 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.”

In a lighthearted moment between First Lady Melania and the pontiff, the latter asked Melania what he feeds the President. Slovenian media notes that the pope was asking about “potica,” a sweet pastry from the Eastern European region. It seemed the first lady responded with “pizza?” but it is not clear whether she understood what the pope meant. Apparently, Francis loves potica, and takes every opportunity to mention it.

The internet was quick to criticize a photo of Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump, Donald Trump, and Pope Francis, describing it as “2017 American Gothic”, a throwback to the 1930 painting by Grant Wood.

Trump arrived at the Vatican after visiting Saudi Arabia and Israel, the last leg in a “tour of the ancestral homes of three of the world’s great monotheistic religions.”

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