Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis

What did Trump say about the Pope during his campaign?

Trump, midway through a grueling nine-day, maiden worldwide journey, called upon the pontiff in a private, 30-minute meeting laden with religious symbolism and ancient protocol.

Trump arrived at the Vatican in a jumbo-sized SUV at the head of a convoy of official cars.

President Trump said it was "disgraceful" of the Argentine-born Pope, who represents just over half of the world's two billion Christians, to question his faith.

The pope's gifts to Trump included a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive, which is a symbol of peace.

The US president was also due to meet top Vatican officials and tour the Sistine Chapel and St Peters' Basilica with First Lady Melania, a Catholic, who was scheduled to separately visit a Vatican hospital for children.

"I could lose a little weight", Trump said.

The audience took place in the private library of the Apostolic Palace, the lavish papal residence that Francis does not use, having opted instead for modest lodgings in a guesthouse for visiting clerics. These are books from Martin Luther King.

The much-anticipated meeting came after historic tensions between the two men, with the Pope famously saying past year of Trump's plans for a wall with the border of Mexico and the ill-fated "Muslim ban": "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.' Trump responded by saying that the Pope weas 'disgraceful". They posed for photographs and then sat down at the papal desk, the pope unsmiling, as their private meeting began.

Part of President Trump's motivation for meeting the Pope was to dramatise how the three major religions should rally against the threat from Islamist militants.

Trump's stance on these issues "violates the sanctity of life that people of all faiths and none hold so dear", said Maya Foa, director of the British judicial rights group Reprieve.

Trump and the famously humble pontiff have disagreed in the past.

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

As Trump left he told his host, "thank you, I won't forget what you said".

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.

The pope received Trump for an extended audience that lasted about 30 minutes.

After landing in Rome on Tuesday, First Lady Melania Trump tweeted that she and the president "are looking forward to our visit to His Holiness Pope Francis @Pontifex". 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.

Trump's visit to the Eternal City comes after two stops in the Middle East where he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism.

Earlier in Saudi Arabia, he attended a summit with leaders of predominantly Muslim countries.

Trump flew in to Italy on May 23 from Israel and the West Bank, where he called on Israelis and Palestinians to reach a compromise for peace. No details or timetable have yet to be established for negotiations. 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.

This story corrects the food the pope referred to in his conversation with USA first lady Melania Trump.

  • Zachary Reyes