Following a long period of speculation, but a remarkably brief span for actual preparation, Pope Francis and President Donald Trump met one another for the first time on Wednesday, in a meeting that ran for roughly 30 minutes, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.
The brief encounter took place on Wednesday at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, during Trump’s first overseas tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and later today to Brussels for a NATO summit ahead of a G7 meeting in Sicily.
Both men seemed anxious to meet one another but also slightly tense as the meeting began. Francis welcomed the American president to the Vatican, who uncharacteristically showed a broad smile as he posed with the pontiff for the traditional photo session before entering the papal studio for their private conversation.
By the end, however, both men seemed relaxed, smiling and seemingly at ease with one another.
Pope Francis was joined by Monsignor Mark Miles from Gibraltar, his usual translator in English-speaking situations.
The Pope’s gifts to Trump included a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive, which is a symbol of peace.
The president responded, “We can use peace.”
The pope also gave him copies of his three main teaching documents. Amoris Laetitia, on the family; Evangelii Gaudium, on the Joy of the Gospel; Laudato Si’, his environmental manifesto; and his 2017 message for the Church’s World Day of Peace.
The president told Francis he’d be reading them.
Trump’s gift for Francis was wrapped in a big blue box. The president said he was delivering “books from Martin Luther King. I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do.”
As the two men parted, Trump said “Thank you. Thank you. I won’t forget what you said.” Francis wished the president a “Buena suerte,” or “Good luck!”
Following his meeting with the pontiff, Trump was led to another room in the Vatican where he was to meet Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and British Archbishop Paul Gallagher, in effect the Vatican’s foreign minister. In general, that second meeting is more substantive and focused on concrete issues in the relationship between the two nations.