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President Trump meets Pope Francis: From trading barbs to seeking common ground

Pope Francis arrives to lead a Mass at the church of the Parish of San Pier Damiani at Casal Bernocchi on the southern outskirts of Rome on May 21, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Remo Casilli

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) Several days after Pope Francis was elected four years ago, he was criticized by Donald Trump for returning to the church-run residence he was staying at in Rome to pay his bill in person.

“I don’t like seeing the Pope standing at the checkout counter of a hotel in order to pay his bill. It’s not Pope-like!” Trump tweeted on March 19, 2013.

On Wednesday (May 24), Trump will see for himself if the pontiff is papal enough when he walks down the frescoed halls of the Apostolic Palace. The venue of the meeting with Francis — who shunned the palace and lives in a Vatican guesthouse — will be the study he uses for official occasions.

Their first meeting comes after Trump sparred with the pope on issues such as migration, climate change and Islam.

(Left) U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to voters at a rally at the Turtle Point Golf Club in Kiawah Island, S.C., on Feb. 18, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Randall Hill (Right) Pope Francis talks to the faithful inside the Cathedral in Morelia, Mexico, on Feb. 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Gregorio Borgia/Pool

“I think it will be a moment of truth. The differences are real and they have not been invented by the media, as some Trump supporters have claimed,” said Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University.

Last year, in response to a question about then-candidate Trump’s views on immigration and his intention to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, Francis said a man who thinks about building walls and not bridges is “not Christian.”

Trump, who grew up in a Presbyterian family but does not attend church regularly, shot back that it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith.

“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,” Trump said during the campaign.

After Trump was elected, his barbs ended, and people close to Francis say he does not hold grudges and wants to turn the page.

“You have to distinguish between Trump the candidate and Trump the president,” said the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a close associate of the pope’s and editor of the prestigious Jesuit journal Civilita Cattolica.

“Francis does not divide the world between the good and the bad, he does not have this Hollywood-esque view of the world,” Spadaro said in an interview.

“I think it will be a frank and realistic meeting, not one revolving around preconceived concepts. It is not a meeting that is being held in order to fight. It is a desire to meet despite all of the things that preceded it,” Spadaro said.

Earlier this month Francis told reporters he would be “sincere” with Trump despite their differences.

“There are always doors that are not closed. We need to find the doors that are at least partly open, go in, and talk about things we have in common and go forward, step by step,” he said.

One door that the Vatican hopes is still open is on climate change.

In March, Trump signed an executive order dismantling environmental regulations enacted under his predecessor Barack Obama, but the Vatican is hoping Washington will not abandon the international Paris Agreement in 2015 aimed at shifting the global economy from fossil fuels.

Francis has made defense of the environment an important plank of his papacy, backing scientific opinion that global warming is caused mostly by human activity.

Vatican sources said the pope’s inner circle was heartened that Trump had toned down his previously harsh rhetoric about Muslims during his visit to Saudi Arabia at the weekend.

As a candidate, Trump proposed temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States. In office, he ordered temporary bans on people from several Muslim-majority countries, which were blocked by courts that ruled they were discriminatory.

Trump at first did not plan to stop in Rome during his visit to Europe, which some in the Vatican saw as a snub. When he changed his mind, the Vatican squeezed him in at 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, an unusual day and an unusually early time.

Francis holds his weekly audience with the general public on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square. Vatican sources say it is significant that the pope did not cancel or delay it.

“His commitment to the people comes first,” one senior source said, noting that because the square will be filled with people, Trump is expected to enter the Vatican though a tiny back gate used by employees instead of the usual entry used by heads of state.

“It will not be the solemn, triumphal entrance he may have wanted,” he said.

(Philip Pullella writes for Reuters)

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Philip Pullella

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  • Hopefully Trump will stand strong and refuse to let Francis scam him on that Global Warming Cult biz. Gotta get out of Paris!!

  • I doubt the Pope will change Trump’s mind. Anyway, Trump has enough scientifically ignorant advisers guiding him. They all get their science from the same sources you do.

  • Father Spadaro is one of the people on the payroll to get the crowd chanting about how beautiful the Emperor’s New Clothes are.

  • 1. According to lastampa.it, the meeting was initiated by the Vatican and overcoming a recalcitrant president.
    2. Both sides walked back their criticism about “the wall.” Trump said during a CNN town hall that he likes the pope and what he represents. “I don’t think this is a fight,” Trump said. Official Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that the pope’s comment was “in no way was a personal attack, nor a voting indication.”
    3.The pope has some agreement with Trump on border policy. “Yes, each country has the right to control its borders, who comes and who goes, and those countries at risk – from terrorism or such things – have even more the right to control them more, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.” The week before the U.S. elections, Pope Francis said, “The migrant must be treated with certain rules, because to emigrate is a right, but it is a very regulated right.”

  • The two men begin from two totally different perspectives on any issue: Pope Francis from the point of view of values – the worth of every human being; Donald Trump from profit.

  • The Pope is too mild a person to influence a mean, megalomaniac man like Trump. He’s got some fixed ideas about certain things like climate change and his aim is to make sure that whatever he does or whichever country he goes to he makes the most business sense out of it. If Pope Francis could only convince Trump that climate change is a reality and that the earth is being destroyed by man’s over-consumption and greed, he would have achieved a lot. But the million dollar question is: Can the pope change Trump’s views on climate change which he calls a hoax?

  • Francis and his Jesuits rockettes are all Hollywood up to their necks in the nefarious and disingenuous program to eviscerate Roman Catholicism of its Divine mandate.
    If they want to be protestants there are — what is it — forty thousand denominations to choose from.
    Be gone.

  • Well, I can’t address Trump’s advisors. But I’ve read about the quality of the scientists that the Global Warming Cult has bullied into silence. Check out this example:

    “We are still in a situation where our knowledge is insufficient and climate models are not good enough. What we need is more basic research freely organized and driven by leading scientists without time pressure to deliver and only deliver when they believe the result is good and solid enough.
    It is not for scientists to determine what society should do. In order for society to make sensible decisions in complex issues it is essential to have input from different areas and from different individuals. The whole concept behind (the United Nations’) IPCC is basically wrong.”

    — Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, climate researcher, 225 science publications, multiple science awards, former director of the Max Planck Institute For Meteorology.

  • Strange how peeps claim Christianity and not recognize real Evil as described by their bible. Never mind recognizing the same exact men that killed Christ and the disciples for exposing them and breaking their ‘laws’.

    Our morbidly greedy, budgetless ‘christian congress’ drowning in $20Trillon of debt, has us in a death clinch ‘alliance’ with these Isis Wahhabi Saudis who have institutionalized head chopping. They are what Isis would become if given the wealth to buy our betraying, satanic whores. We are essentially propping up this Grand Dragon Isis death cult, not with a few small arms, but to the tune of $trillions! …essentially ‘genociding’ Yemen, upheaving Syria – prepping to annihilate Iran for the Persian gas, and control/dominance of global methane/oil markets…while telling the world they are “fighting terrorism and promoting human rights” …and their precious princes build Wahhabi mosque all over the world for charity! …and not a peep from a ‘spirit-led church’, NOTHING! Instead, the priests/preachers mingle, collude and invest with them, encouraging the sheep to support this parasitic trash while gorging on fear and hate! It defies nature! Its blasphemous and abominable!

    The US Congress is self destructing in a savage, death mongering money frenzy. The human species is facing near extinction in less than 100 years, while the ‘church’, detached from God/knowledge/truth, rambles in dreamy, fantasized BS.

    …’Christians’ are about as ‘spirit-led’ as a hammer.

  • I am very proud of our president. As a private citizen of the United States of America, it is with great joy that we have such an executive who will enforce our laws as we see fit to protect American people and American interests FIRST without District of Columbia/foreign interests!

    i respect that he is NOT a globalist and he is NOT bought into false science such as “global warming,” which is nothing more than a scheme to increase revenues to the IMF and hence, the Vatican’s self interest. Trump is mandated to secure America’s interest FIRST, not foreign interest.

    It was an egregious error on Pope Francis’s part to publicly weigh how “Christian” is Donald Trump if only he would build “bridges” and not “walls.” That was very telling of the Pope. It is refreshing that the Pope disapproves of such a man. That is good news for Americans.

    Of course i would like to see this Pope do away with his own walls at the Vatican and see how long the interests of the Vatican can be secured without a wall…especially in the terrorist driven world we now live in…

    Trump made NO such “harsh rhetoric” concerning Muslims – of course THAT IS FAKE NEWS being repeated here in this article…however, Trump did deliver very very harsh rhetoric towards “Islamic extremism” ..a huge distinction with your words above as written…this having nothing whatsoever to do with true Muslims per se. since they too are weary of such deadly fanaticism themselves.

    Such attempts at humiliation by the Pope tomorrow, Wednesday 8:30 a.m. towards our president will be seen for what it is by all those watching carefully. This is not surprising. The Pope is clearly not very pleased at all with such a “Mozart” of the United States of America. The times they are a changin,’ and this time without a “script” to be read by a pre-chosen puppet like in all these decades especially going back to 1933…we have a REAL American in office, with a REAL American cabinet! Imagine that! How absolutely refreshing!

  • Donald Trump a very unprincipled person continues to reinvent himself for the moment. Observing him one walks away knowing he does not have the mindset to understand. That he will continue on his merry little journey in feeding his ego.

  • “There are always doors that are not closed. We need to find the doors that are at least partly open, go in, and talk about things we have in common and go forward, step by step,” he said.”

    President Trump’s scheduled meeting with this pope is a waste of the President’s time! Trump is a man of action who accuratetly assesses the basics of a critical situation and jumps in to change it. This pope is a spotlight-chasing publicity seeker, who hasn’t bothered to walk through the big, gaping door of a decades-long pedophelia crisis in the worldwide institution he attempts to lead, let alone start to clean it up! He hasn’t bothered to compensate the thousands whose lives will never be the same because of the harm done by priests whose lives were supposedly dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of children, along with those of adults.

    This pope’s denial and dithering has just about nailed THAT door completely shut!

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