24 May, 2017
The two leaders have been at odds over issues from migration to climate change, staking out starkly opposing positions through the media, most notably in 2016 while Trump was campaigning for the USA presidency.
They also disagree on issues like the death penalty and the arms trade but share a fervent opposition to abortion. The president greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace Wednesday morning.
Details of the traditional gifts exchanged by Trump and Francis have not yet been revealed, the report said.
The two men's often opposite worldviews collided head-on early a year ago, when Francis was sharply critical of Trump's campaign pledge to build an impenetrable border wall. 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.
It came on the third leg of Trump's first overseas trip as president, which has already taken him to Saudi Arabia and to Israel and the Palestinian territories. When the men exchanged gifts, the Pope smiled more broadly and easily.
And Francis promised this month that he "won't judge" the former TV personality before hearing him out.
Following the brief meeting, Trump was expected to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Francis prefers modest Fiats and Fords wherever possible.
"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.
Before the door of the wood-lined elevator closed, a Vatican protocol official was heard quipping to the president that it was not "like Trump Tower in New York".
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.
Trump, a candidate at the time, swiftly returned fire.
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.
Human rights groups had urged Francis to raise USA use of the death penalty and the issues of torture and targeted assassinations with Trump. He also said the thought a successful staging of the visit could provide Trump with a good news storyline to briefly overshadow the tumult back home over the firing of his Federal Bureau of Investigation director and the ongoing Russian Federation probe.
And having vowed to make persecuted Christians in the Middle East a foreign policy priority, Trump may be asked by Francis to divert some U.S. humanitarian spending to churches in Iraq and Syria, Vatican expert John L. Allen Jr. said.
Francis also gave Trump a signed copy of his 2017 peace message whose title is "Nonviolence - A Style of Politics for Peace", and a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the effects of climate change. "While the pope emphasizes humility, he, like Trump, is a savvy media personality".
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