Pope Francis, Trump meet in Vatican for private talk

The unconventional Republican and the first Jesuit pontiff made for an unlikely pair in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, where Catholic leaders have presided or centuries and American presidents have come or decades.

Neither President Trump nor the Pope revealed what their conversation entailed and neither the White House nor the Vatican offered any immediate clues, leaving those curious about the first meeting between the two starkly different world leaders thirsting for more.

Reporters in the room thought initially that the First Lady had replied "Pizza!"

"Well, I'll be reading them", the US President said.

"It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace", the Pope said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter.

Twitter was flooded with pictures of the Pope having a light-hearted conversation with Melania, who is originally from Slovenia and was apparently asked she fed Trump potizza, a Slovenian dessert.

Francis also gave a message of peace and three bound papal documents that to some degree define his papacy and priorities, including the family and the environment.

Trump, who has threatened to ignore the Paris accords on emissions and described global warming as a hoax, vowed to read them.

A Vatican statement highlighted "the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience".

Elected in November previous year, Trump has already axed rules protecting tax-funded financing of family planning clinics that offer abortions, and has filled an empty spot on the Supreme Court with an anti-abortion justice. Melania and first daughter Ivanka Trump were both dressed in all black and wore veils.

Donald Trump then proceeded to visit the Sistine Chapel with his wife.

Melania visited a children's hospital and Ivanka met members of the St Egidio religious community.

The Trump team is due to fly to Brussels this afternoon for meetings with European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials before returning to Italy late tomorrow for the G7 summit in Sicily on Friday and Saturday.

The two leaders sat down for a half-hour face-to-face meeting, with the Pope leaning out over the table with his arms extended toward the President.

But there have also been conciliatory moves. "We're loving Italy very much", Trump said at that stop.

"If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president", he continued. In Saudi Arabia, he addressed dozens of Arab leaders and urged them to fight extremists at home and isolate Iran, which he depicted as a menace to the region. These are books from Martin Luther King.

Against that backdrop, Francis's diplomatic advisors would no doubt have counselled the outspoken pontiff against any reference to Trump's size, which came under considerable scrutiny during the USA election campaign.

  • Zachary Reyes