24 May, 2017
Christian pilgrims amassed in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday morning received a double treat in the form of huge video images of US president Donald Trump meeting Pope Francis for the first time, followed by the pope himself holding his regular, open-air prayer session in the square.
Although President Trump and Pope Francis are known to have serious differences on issues such as immigration, economic policy and climate change, the pope told reporters 11 days before the meeting that he would look first for common ground with the USA leader.
The president's visit to Rome comes more than a year after Trump said it was "disgraceful" for the Argentinian pontiff to publicly suggest the then-presidential front-runner was not a Christian for his plan to erect a wall at the U.S. Trump has said he wants to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and has declared climate change to be a "hoax".
The Rev. Caleb Kaltenbach, who leads the nondenominational Discovery Church in Simi Valley, said he's hopeful that Trump's first overseas trip as president will translate into countries working together rather than the USA being perceived as the world's savior.
"It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace", the Pope said, speaking in Spanish. Trump arrived at the Vatican in a jumbo-sized SUV at the head of a convoy of official cars. He spent the night at the USA ambassador to Italy's residence.
Following behind Trump were daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, a top White House aide, national security adviser HR McMaster and adviser Hope Hicks.
When Trump took his oath of office on January 20, Francis sent him a telegram of congratulations, offering his prayers for wisdom and strength that the new president's decisions would be guided by ethical values.
"Prior to the meeting, the only communication between the two were indirect barbs at each other during Trump's presidential campaign", Chesnut said.
While Donald dropped in on Italy's President and met Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Melania visited a children's hospital and Ivanka met women trafficked from Africa for the sex trade.
"There are always doors that are not completely shut", Pope Francis said.
The Pope was asking Slovenian-born Melania Trump about a nut-filled cake known in her homeland as "Potica".
MALCOLM BRABANT: According to veteran Vatican watchers, one of the key factors in determining whether or not this meeting has been a success will be its duration.
In public remarks on Monday, Netanyahu warned that "it will not be simple", but also expressed cautious optimism that "for the first time in many years and the first time in my lifetime, I see a real hope for change".
Trump and Francis will certainly have differences to iron out during their meeting.
They were holding banners reading "Rome resists" while chanting slogans like, "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here" and "Hands too small, can't build a wall".
Francis gave Trump copies of the three major texts he has published as pope, including one on the environment which urges the industrialised world to curb carbon emissions or risk catastrophic consequences for the planet.
"I'd just say that this man is not Christian if he said it in this way", the pope told reporters after visiting Mexico.
Trump told the pope that he "won't forget what you said" following the meeting.
The two men then posed for photograghs and the pope kept a stern face while Trump beamed for the cameras. "We're loving Italy very much", Trump said at that stop.