Pope Francis received President Donald Trump for a half-hour meeting where they engaged in “cordial discussions,” according to an official statement released by Vatican officials. The statement expressed that there was “satisfaction” for the “good existing bilateral relations” as well as “the joint commitment in favor of life and freedom of worship and conscience.” Allaying reports in some media outlets about supposed frictions between the two leaders, the statement said that the it is “hoped that there may be serene collaboration” between the Catholic Church and the Trump administration “in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.”
 
The pair met on the day that Catholics celebrate a feast of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady, Help of Christians. They discussed “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.” Issues of common ground, such as respect for life and religious freedom were stressed, as well as those issues where there are differences, such as immigration. The statement did not refer to environmental issues.
 
 
Upon Trump’s morning arrival at the library of the pope’s palace, the pope bade him “Welcome!” In reply, Trump said, “Thank you so much. A very great honor.” They then spoke through a translator because the pope does not speak English well. First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner arrived to greet the pontiff. They were followed by Trump’s official delegation, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; H.R. McMaster, national security adviser; and Louis Bono, chargé d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
 
The pope presented trump with copies of his Laudato Si, his two apostolic exhortations, Amoris Laetitia and Evangelii Gaudium, and a signed copy of his World Day of Peace Message. Trump said in reply, “Well, I’ll be reading them.” He also presented the president with a large bronze medallion of an olive tree. “It’s by a Roman artist, of an olive tree, which is a symbol of peace,” the Pope said. “This is one of my great desires, that you can be an olive tree for peace.” Trump replied, “We can use peace.” 
 
When he was introduced to Melania Trump, the pope asked, “What do you give him [the president] to eat? Potizza?” She repeated "potizza," which is a Slovenian pastry. He then blessed a religious article offered by the First Lady. Trump said upon leaving “Good luck” to the Pope, and added, “Thank you; thank you. I won’t forget what you said.”
 
Trump and the delegation went to meet the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Trump then met six American priests and religious sisters working in the Secretariat of State and then visited the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Afterward, Melania Trump visited the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital, which is operated by the Vatican, where she met fifteen children representing nine different nationalities. She also spent time praying alone in the hospital chapel and laid roses at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary.


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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