President Trump stands next to Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pope Francis gives President Trump some homework at their first meeting

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Donald Trump is known as a climate change skeptic with a short attention span who has said he doesn't have time to read books.

But Pope Francis is a man of faith who lives in hope, and during the first, highly anticipated meeting between these two world leaders with sharply contrasting visions the pontiff gave the president three lengthy documents, including his landmark encyclical underscoring the perils of global warming.

“I will be reading them,” Trump promised Francis when the pope presented the gifts to the president after 30 minutes of private talks at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Wednesday morning (May 24).

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Francis also gave the president a small sculptured olive tree and told him through the interpreter that it symbolized peace.

"It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace," the Argentine-born pope said, speaking in his native Spanish through an interpreter.

Trump responded: "We can use peace."

In a statement issued three hours after the meeting, the Vatican said that the pope and the president stressed areas of agreement, chiefly "the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience" — a reference to the administration's opposition to abortion.

But the pope and his aides, in subsequent diplomatic talks, appeared to press Trump and the U.S. delegation on health care, education and immigration, areas where the Catholic Church holds views that are in stark contrast to those pushed by Trump.

According to the statement, the talks also involved an “exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.”

Pope Francis meets President Trump and first lady Melania Trump during a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandra Tarantino/pool

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The president and first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and other members of the U.S. delegation were met by an honor guard of Swiss Guards inside the Apostolic Palace just before 8:30 a.m. after traveling across Rome amid tight security.

The pope looked subdued when they first shook hands as an enthusiastic Trump smiled and said, “Thank you so much” and it was “a very great honor” to be there. The media were then ushered from the room.

When the two leaders emerged they were more relaxed and smiling, and a Vatican statement described the meeting as “cordial."

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Trump gave the pontiff a box of books written by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom the pope has cited several times in his speeches, including his address to Congress during his U.S. visit in September 2015.

“I think you will enjoy them,” Trump said.

When the pope met the first lady, who was born in Slovenia, he asked her: “What do you give him to eat, potica?" a reference to a Slovenian pastry. It was not clear if Melania Trump  understood the pope. She replied, "Pizza."

Meeting later with the Italian prime minister, Trump said of Francis: "He is something. We had a fantastic meeting."

He also called the audience the "honor of a lifetime" in a tweet later Wednesday and said he left the Vatican "more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world."

Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, told RNS on Wednesday the meeting was a “solid foundation for communication."

“Prior to the meeting, the only communication between the two were indirect barbs at each other during Trump's presidential campaign,” Chesnut said.

He said the apparent success of the meeting does not “erase the fundamental differences of opinion between the two” but “sets the stage for future dialogue."

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Trump also met the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is responsible for the Holy See’s relations with states, during his visit to the Vatican.

Trump and Francis have never seen eye to eye on many policy matters: Francis has put a priority on working to stop climate change, aiding the poor, reducing economic inequality, welcoming immigrants and refugees and providing universal health care. Trump generally takes the opposite view on those issues.

They are also a sharp contrast in styles, the soft-spoken pope who puts a priority on humility and mercy and the bombastic real estate magnate who brags about sexually assaulting women and humiliates his political foes.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Evan Vucci/Pool

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Trump first dinged Francis for not acting papal and proper when Francis was photographed paying his own hotel bill after his 2013 election.

Relations between the pope and the president were seriously strained last year when Trump, then the Republican candidate, repeatedly vowed to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, among other anti-immigrant measures.

Without naming Trump, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

An angry Trump at the time described the pope’s comments as “disgraceful” and he said he was “proud to be a Christian."

On the day of Trump’s inauguration in January, Francis sent the incoming president a telegram urging him not to forget the poor and those in need.

The pope also called for greater compassion for refugees days after Trump tried to impose a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries when he was elected.

In a video of the pontiff’s prayer intentions for February, the pope expressed his concern about large numbers of people who he said were being marginalized on the fringes of society.

“Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, so they may be welcomed and find comfort in our communities,” he said.

The Vatican has also urged Trump to listen to “dissenting voices” on climate change, and on Wednesday Vatican officials urged him not to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate accord.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that no decision had been made.

As the president was leaving their meeting on Wednesday he told the pope, “I won’t forget what you said.”

"Buena suerte," the pontiff told him.

"Good luck."

(Josephine McKenna writes for RNS from Rome)


  1. As the pope showed Trump into the library and sat down, he was smiling, looking very relaxed. (It was the Vatican which pressed for the meeting while Trump remained uninterested. (
    A statement from the Vatican press office said during the course of the “cordial encounter,” the two men discussed the “good bilateral relations” that exist between the U.S. and the Holy See.
    Since “the wall” polemics, both Trump and the pope have made several conciliatory remarks about the other. Trump said during a CNN town hall that he likes the pope. The pope said there were “open doors” of common interests to be discussed.

  2. Trump should pay attention to what Francis has said about climate change, but does Donnie have the ability to actually read the whole encyclical? Then, too, both Trump and Francis are on the wrong side when it comes to what is absolutely necessary to combat climate change: universal access to safe, legal abortion and contraception, which is possible only through government aid. With Trump’s insane ides of May declaration greatly expanding the “global gag rule”, intelligent, science based action on human overpopulation was made vastly more difficult. Francis, who has the power to do so, needs to remove the Vatican’s opposition to contraception and abortion, and Trump needs to read and follow what Republican President Ford signed in 1975, the National Security Study Memorandum 200 report on overpopulation’s threat to our planet. — Edd Doerr

  3. President Trump and Pope Francis touched on various dialogue topics, which is good.

    But the one presidential commitment in which Trump really needs to stay strong and not falter, is to keep America OUT of the
    (and in Edd Doerr’s case, runaway-unrestricted-abortion-sausages-on-demand),
    Paris Global Warming Scam.

    The global warming cult is *the* one cult that America doesn’t want to get sucked, or suckered, into.

  4. Trump does not do his homework; that’s the sum total of his worth to the Russians, his lack of attention to little details like preparation.

  5. If the Pope is so certain humans are causing “climate change”, then he might say just what % is caused by humans, & answer why climate changed before human ever inhabited the earth.

    I think Trump is a bit closer to the truth then the Pope.

  6. Is Mrs. Trump Catholic. She refused head covering in Saudi Arabia (good for her!) but she wore a veil or head covering for the Pope out of respect. Is this a double standard or are the two not equivalent?

  7. You shouldn’t get your panties in a bunch over this issue. The world is not doing enough to slow the emission of CO2 and what will be will be unless drastic steps are taken.

    As regards the “hoax” it will live or die by the accuracy of the predictive models. I suggest you stay away from your junk science sources and instead keep track of how well the models are doing.

  8. Poor Floyd is woefully out of sync with 97% of climate scientists. The “cult” he belongs to is the one that worships embryos but cares not a flip about those who are born or about the habitability of our planet.

  9. I suspect that, in the second photo, the Pope is meditating on Matthew 16:23.

  10. I’m not sure who is in the fore ground of the cover photo but he sure seems to be fond of the president.

  11. The Paris Agreement is very real, Jim, even though it’s no solution.

    But the most “realest” part of the Paris gig, is NOT the science (definitely not!!), but the non-stop tons of budget-busting $$$$$ that America will have to shell out if it ever gets sucked into the Paris trap. That part, is worth opposing out loud.

    The Paris Agreement, just like the Pope, doesn’t care about top-drawer dissenting scientists (and you remain unable to refute the clear example I offered). The PA doesn’t care about the horrific effects of censorship, bullying, fudged data, and flawed models on legitimate climate science.

    The Paris Agreement is all about money. Pressuring the USA to give up budget-busting amounts of money to the Global Warming Cultists, with no exit ramp.

  12. You wouldn’t recognize science if it slapped you in the face.

  13. But Dr. Lennart Bengtsson would.

    Do you have any reply to him?

  14. In Saudi Arabia, the hair-covering was optional. At the Vatican, while meeting the Pope privately, hair-covering is required (except for extreme cases).

  15. My point is that neither you or I have the expertise to challenge any scientific theory. You, for religious or political reasons, have decided that man-made GW is wrong and are seeking out sources to support your viewpoint. I am not familiar with this scientist but I am aware there are legitimate scientists who question the theory. That’s OK. But the sites you reference are not legitimate and I have a background as a scientist and can recognize the crap they publish.

  16. You should think again. And you should read the Pope’s encyclical. After you read some read climate science.

  17. Actually Dr. Bengtsson accepts greenhouse warming but believes timelines are much further out. But he is also a meteorologist so if you want to cite him, then I would suggest you might want to going to an orthopedic surgeon for heart surgery.

  18. i quite agree. Global warming is yet another scheme and scam not unlike NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP etc…un-American foreign lobbying will no longer be acceptable. Building walls and tighter vetting of those coming through our doors that ultimately protect American people are much more worthy of our interest, focus and execution.

  19. i wonder if the pope knows who is behind all those planes that dump poison from the skies day after day criss-crossing our skies…mmmmmmm surely he knows who is really messing with our “weather/climate.” Oh its “humans” alright, except these “humans” accepting such big pay, seem to have no conscience…but WHO is behind these pilots?

  20. You mean Al Gore, & the 1000’s of UN diplomats flying to climate change conferences, staying in 5 star facilities.

  21. Assuming recent climate change, do to humans, is causing temperature
    increases on the planet, one would expect that the sea levels rise (going on since the last ice age) , should be increasing. Such as melting glaciers, & water expanding when sea temperature increases.

    Looking at the sea level records for the past 100+ years, it appears that there
    has been virtually no change in sea level rise per year corresponding to any CO2 increase.

    Leads one to question, how much, if any are humans contributing to climate change?

    You asked about climate science? You might ponder the above question, & provide your response .

  22. And President Trump, not to be outdone by this pope, gave HIM a little assignment as well: Quit pontificating about world politics long enough to tell your priests to quit diddling innocent little choir boys!

  23. I looked at the chart, looked at other charts as well as other information including site cited. What I found was that while the sea level increase does not seem significant (.75 of a foot) it is rising and the rate has now tripled. Also found out they can go back to 1300 and find no change at all. Sea level is not static as well, it can rise and lower based on barometric pressure and varies according to tides. That increase can have an impact with high winds, high tides and low land leading to coastal damage and flooding.

    A good answer to your question might be to look at the variables believed to have been involved in climate change in the past. One of the key contributors is greenhouse gas but that happened in a non man-made manner. But in periods when climate change was sudden, there were significant consequences for life on the planet with minimal adaptation time. The take-away seems to be that the earth and atmosphere is a closed system and while climate is impacted by a number of variables when one thing changes, other corresponding changes are set into motion.

  24. No, **this** guy is recognized as able to address both areas.

  25. The graph I ref., shows tidal gauge, 100 yr. average rate, a bit over 2 mm/yr., while satellite data, indicates a 3.4 mm/yr rise, over a 35 yr. period, or 1/4th the data provided by tidal gauges..

    A comparison of the 2 methods is shown here:

    with a error tolerance of about +-1 mm/yr. These are the only direct measurements we have of sea levels, the rest is proxy, & subject to even more uncertainty.

    The point is, the longer term data does not show any appreciable acceleration of sea level rise, that would be indicative of recent increased ocean temperature, which covers about 3/4ths of the earth.

    So it looks from the data, the jury is still out, & Trump appears closer to reality.

    P.S, Nature magazine noted that the increased CO2 has increased “greening” in many arid & semi-arid areas, particularly in Africa & Asia.

  26. No, the Pope doesn’t have the power or the authority to change Church teaching. He is not going to sanction human conduct the Church honestly believes to be sinful and jeopardize a person’s eternal life.

    Even during the Middle Ages, the Pope was never a dictator lording over cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns, and lay Catholics who were all on their knees afraid of going to hell if they disagreed with him on anything.

    While Francis (and Benedict before him) agree that climate change needs to be addressed, he will certainly not support abortion, contraception, sterilization, socialism, crony capitalism, or any policies that could increase poverty and unemployment.

  27. Poor Dimitri’s knowledge of church history seems to have been learned from a rose-colored comic book. — ED

  28. Your first sentence is the most interesting, for me. It’s actually a hubris-filled tactic to try to shut ordinary people up (but I’m NOT accusing you of that motive, although it fit the late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould to a T.).

    The fact is that ANYBODY can “have the expertise” to challenge ANY scientific theory, if they are willing to work at it. You do not need a PhD or work in a science lab, to make a big difference in the science world. That includes challenging the Global Warming Religion.

    Do you remember the great Global Warming Cult preacher, Al Gore?
    Exactly what science degree does HE have? None at all.
    But he didn’t let his amateur status stop him from doing a big movie, “Inconvenient Truth”, which is now known to be FULL of serious scientific errors, but at the time caused tons of people to literally convert to the Global Warming Religion.

    So I utterly reject your first sentence, not just for me but for you too. Being an amateur just means you have to get serious and call people’s attention to what some of the PhD scientists are really saying. (Especially the EXTREMELY well qualified scientists like Dr. Bengtsson, whose quoted statement you are still uttlerly unable to refute despite you being a scientist yourself.)

  29. This is from the fool who read too many of pro-Stalin Joe McCabe’s anti-Catholic pamphlets and Leo Lehmann’s fundamentalist Christian magazine, The Converted Catholic, as a child and then absorbed the works of Avro Manhattan. (I tried to verify Manhattan’s claims about his life such as studying at the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics, being imprisoned by Mussolini, and then running a Resistance radio station during the war, but I couldn’t verify a single thing. And yes, I searched under his given name, Teofilo Gardini. Manhattan also claimed he received a title, a baronhood, from the Italian monarchy–years after it had been formally abolished.)

  30. Reading makes us perfect and praying does still more. And thus goes the Holy Father’s invitation: “Pray with me for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, so they may be welcomed and find comfort in our communities.”

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