‘I won’t forget what you said,’ the president says as their meeting came to a close.
President Donald Trump visited Wednesday with Pope Francis, one of his highest profile feuding partners from last year’s campaign, exchanging gifts in a meeting that the president labeled “fantastic.”
Trump’s stop at the Vatican comes amid an eight-day, multi-nation trip, his first as president. Trump likewise met Wednesday with Italian political leaders, but the visit with Pope Francis was widely considered one of the trip’s crucial moments, given the rhetoric the two men had hurled at one another from across the Atlantic during the presidential election.
The president was effusively gracious to the pope throughout the meeting, according to the traveling pool of reporters who were allowed to observe some of Trump’s time with him, thanking him repeatedly as they exchanged gifts. Trump again told the pope, “Thank you. Thank you. I won’t forget what you said,” as their meeting came to a close.
“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” Trump wrote on Twitter following his visit.
Trump was accompanied at the meetings, which a traveling pool of reporters was briefly allowed to see, by senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter who is also a White House adviser. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, First Lady Melania Trump and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster were likewise among the US delegation.
The president presented Pope Francis with a first edition set of books written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a bronze statue that the White House said “represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”
“This is a gift for you. These are books from Martin Luther King. I think you will enjoy them,” Trump told the pope.
The pope, in return, gave Trump a set of his own writings, including his 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment. Also among the pope’s gifts to Trump was a copy of this year’s World Day of Peace message, which the Pope said he had personally signed for Trump. The president told Pope Francis that “I’ll be reading” what he was given.
Also among the gifts for Trump was a medal made by a Roman artist with an olive branch on it, which the pope said symbolized peace. The president responded by telling Pope Francis that “we can use peace.”
The meeting, which the pool report noted was stiff at its start, marked a dramatic warming between the two leaders, who have regularly been at odds over issues including immigration and refugees. The pope has been especially critical of Trump’s promise to build a wall along US-Mexico border, visiting and saying mass along the Mexican side of the border and telling reporters last year that “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
Trump called the pope’s statement “disgraceful” in a statement released by his campaign, adding that “if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened.”