Pope asks Trump to be peacemaker, gives him environmental letter

During the United States presidential campaign, Pope Francis criticised Trump's plans to build a wall along the border of Mexico, saying a person who thought about building such a boundary "was not a Christian".

As U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at the Vatican on Wednesday morning to meet Pope Francis, much of the media took note of the fact that the first lady covered her hair with a black lace head scarf.

Francis smiled faintly as he greeted Trump outside the study and was not as outgoing as he sometimes is with visiting heads of state.

Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, had a private audience with Francis at the Vatican in 2014 that lasted 50 minutes.

According to the Vatican spokeswoman, Francis loves potica and always mentions it when he meets a Slovenian. In the gift exchange, the pope gave Trump a medallion with an olive branch as a symbol of peace, as well as copies of his three main teaching documents.

"We can use peace", the president replied. The books included one on "care of our common home: the environment". They were the 2017 message on peace, "Nonviolence - A Style of Politics for Peace", and his 2015 letter on the need to protect the world from climate change. On their way out, Trump told the Pope that the meeting was "a very great honor".

The Vatican said later that they shared a commitment to "life, and freedom of worship and conscience" and expressed hope that they can collaborate "in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to migrants".

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

While shaking Melania Trump's hand, he asked what she fed the president.

"So many young, attractive innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life", Trump said. "Thank you. I won't forget what you said".

Trump presented the pope with several gifts, including a collection of first editions by Martin Luther King and a bronze sculpture of a flowering lotus.

The protection of persecuted Christians was a major point on the campaign trail for Trump, who vowed to make it a cornerstone of USA foreign policy, and it's also emerged as a major theme for Francis, who repeatedly has referred to a "vast ecumenism of blood" shared by new Christian martyrs from all denominations.

Ivanka Trump has had meetings about the subject at the White House.

Trump responded with a statement calling Francis' remarks "disgraceful".

On the eve of the talks, environmental Greenpeace pulled off a publicity coup by projecting the slogan "Planet Earth First" onto the dome of St Peter's.

"No president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslims faiths all on one trip", said US National Security Advisor HR McMaster.

Donald Trump has met the Pope in Rome on the next stop on his tour.

On the eve of the pope's meeting with Trump, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of an influential Italian Jesuit journal, noted that the differences between the two were drawing a lot of attention. 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 Wednesday in Rome and later in the week when Trump travels to Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting and Sicily for a G7 gathering.

"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".

  • Leroy Wright