Trump's Meeting With Pope Francis: Climate Change, World Peace and a Viral Photo

ABACAPRESS(Sipa via AP Images)
Pope Francis meet with President Trump

The leader of the Catholic Church welcomed the president's family to the Vatican.

Pope Francis tweeted before his meeting with President Donald Trump: “Dialogue allows us to plan for a future in common. Through dialogue we build peace, taking care of everyone.”

The message appeared to be directed at critics puzzled over the Pontifex’s welcoming of the U.S. leader who has sparred with him multiple times. On the campaign trail, after the Pope told journalists that building walls is not a Christian act, Trump questioned whether he was a pawn of the Mexican government and called him “disgraceful” for questioning his religion.

It was water under the bridge Wednesday, however, as the two met at the Vatican. Trump emerged from a long motorcade and the Pope from his Ford Focus. The two sat down in the Pope’s private study, discussing issues ranging from world peace and  terrorism to immigration rights and climate change and the Paris agreement.

The Washington Post reports the Pope was unsmiling during their one-on-one exchange, and rung his bell after 30 minutes to end the meeting. President Obama’s meeting with the Pope in 2014 went on for 50 minutes, before being cut short by the weekly Wednesday general audience.

The two exchanged gifts, with Trump presenting the Pope with a series of books by Martin Luther King Jr., an engraved stone from the King memorial and a lotus sculpture. The Pope left no room for interpretation in his gifts to Trump: his 2017 peace message and his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from climate change.

Trump during his campaign called scientific findings that humans contributed to climate change a hoax, but he appeared more open to the Pope’s gifts. “Well, I’ll be reading them,” he said.

The Pope also gifted him an olive tree medal that he said symbolizes peace.

“We can use peace,” said Trump.

“I signed it personally for you,” responded the Pope. 

Trump told the Pope after the visit, “Thank you, thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”

Pundits saw the meeting as a welcome diversion to Trump’s troubles back home in the midst of an investigation into campaign ties with Russia. The Internet had another field day with a photo opportunity of the Pope looking miserable standing next to the smiling president and his family.

Melania Trump also had her own moment with the Pope. He asked her, “What are you feeding him, potica?” She appeared puzzled before responding, “Pizza? Yes.” “Potica,” which sounds very similar to “pizza,” is a Slovenian dessert bread served on holidays. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis is a big fan of the dessert and mentions it whenever he meets a Slovenian.

The photo of Pope Francis and the Trumps was not the only thing that went viral out of Trump’s trip to Italy. On their arrival in Rome, the First Lady appears to also rebuff Trump’s grabbing for her hand, deftly avoiding it to brush her hair out of her face. Trump responds by moving his hand to her backside. The incident, just one day after a similar rebuff in Israel, made newspaper headlines around the world as the press is eager to pick up on any signs from the distant First Lady.