16 May 2017
Pope says he will be 'sincere' with Trump ahead of historic meeting
The potential for clashes between Francis and the President are ripe given their diametrically opposed views on migrants and the environment.
They are two of the most captivating figures in global politics with bold, populist and radically differing visions about how to deal with the crises facing the world.
On Wednesday 24 May, Pope Francis and President Donald Trump will meet for the first time in a hotly anticipated encounter with the potential for fireworks.
At 8.30am, inside the grand, frescoed halls of the Vatican’s apostolic palace, the President of the United States will be brought into the same room as the Latin American pontiff where the pair will have a private discussion.
The Holy See are anxious to ensure the papal audience runs smoothly - and without any dramas - while the White House hope the meeting will show a statesmanlike Trump as he makes his first foreign trip abroad. His meeting with the Pope comes as part of a tour where he will meet world leaders in Sicily and pay his respects world’s three major religions. Along with Rome he is going to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
But the potential for clashes between Francis and the President are ripe given their diametrically opposed views on migrants and the environment. When Trump was campaigning the Pope said he was “not Christian” for wanting to build a wall on the US-Mexico border with the then republican candidate hitting back describing Francis’ remarks as “disgraceful.”
At another level, the Pope has become a de facto leader of the globalist, compassionate post-war consensus with his focus on refugees, climate change and inequality while the president is a more unpredictable figure. His largely nationalist “America first” tone has been coupled with airstrikes in Syria and an escalation of tensions with North Korea.
On the plane back from Fatima the Argentinian Pope said he would be “sincere” with the president about their differences.
“I will say what I think and he will say what he thinks,” Francis told journalists. “But I have never wanted to make a judgement without first listening to the person.”
After the two meet there will be an exchange of gifts. The Pope normally hands heads of state his encyclical on climate change and other major documents on the family, 'Amoris Laetitia', and the Church’s mission, 'Evangelii Gaudium'. Francis is, however, likely to give the president another gift which would provide the opportunity to convey a symbolic, but pointed, message.
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