Pope, President Trump speak of hopes for peace

President Donald Trump has arrived at the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. "It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace", the pope apparently said, via the interpreter, gifting the president as small sculpted version of said tree.

The two held "cordial discussions" which enabled "an exchange of views on various themes relating to worldwide affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and inter-religious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities", according to a statement from the Holy See.

"Peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis, which has dragged on for almost half a century or more", Trump said during a speech at the Israel Museum on Tuesday.

However, the mood lightened when Pope Francis met the first lady, Melania Trump, and asked if she fed her husband "potica", a traditional cake in Slovenia, her homeland.

The Vatican described the discussions as "cordial" and emphasised the two men's joint opposition to abortion and shared concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Trump, the 13th president to visit the Vatican, also toured the Sistine Chapel. Trump gave the pope a first-edition series of literature from Martin Luther King, while the Pope gave the president his 2017 essay on peacemaking and his 192-page encyclical on the importance of combatting climate change.

"I give it to you so you can be an instrument of peace", he said in Spanish.

Trump and Pope Francis clashed previous year during the presidential campaign, when the latter said, without naming Trump specifically, that it wasn't Christian to build walls.

It was not just the comparison between Trump and Obama meeting the Pope that had Twitter's attention.

While President Trump flashed a wide grin, the Pope offered only a modest smile - his demeanor, business-like.

The pope also gave the president a signed message of peace along with copies of his three main teaching documents.

"We had a fantastic meeting", the President said.

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

A Vatican statement said the meeting was "cordial" and that the Vatican hoped there could be "serene collaboration" between the USA government and the American Catholic Church, including "assistance to immigrants".

Trump, a Presbyterian, shot back, calling the pope a "pawn" for the Mexican government and saying it was "disgraceful" for Francis to question his faith.

He is scheduled to fly to Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit later.

Trump at first did not plan to stop in Rome during his visit to Europe, which some in the Vatican saw as a snub.

  • Leroy Wright