06 February 2017
Christopher Lamb in Rome
Pope and Trump expected to meet in May, claim Vatican insiders
Last year Francis said Trump was “not Christian” for planning to build a wall along the US border with Mexico
The first meeting between the Pope and President Donald Trump may take place at the end of May, when the US president travels to Italy for a summit of world leaders.
According to diplomatic sources, Mr Trump will meet Francis during the visit. The G7 leaders are gathering in Sicily and the White House confirmed yesterday that the president would attend the meeting.
Officially, the Holy See are not commenting on when the Pope will meet Trump, but Vatican insiders say that the 26 - 27 May summit in Taormina presents an opportunity for them to see each other.
The logic of a Trump-Francis meeting in May is backed up by the fact that both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush used G8 summits in Italy as ways to have their first meetings with pontiffs.
“This visit gives the president an opportunity to meet the Pope,” one diplomatic source explained. “And if he came to Italy without seeing Francis it would be seen as a snub, particularly given their earlier clashes over migration. Trump also sees that wherever you sit on the political spectrum attacking the papacy isn’t wise.”
Whenever the meeting does take place there will be tensions, given that the Pope and the president have already had a public row. Last year Francis said the Republican candidate was “not Christian” for planning to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico while in a recent interview the Pope warned against populist saviours that can result in Hitler-like dictators.
The Vatican also criticised the president’s travel ban on people from Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen entering the United States and the plan to limit the numbers of refugees entering the country.
Nevertheless, comparisons have also been drawn between the Pope and Donald Trump as two populist leaders shaking up their respective institutions by taking a message directly to the people.
Populists can also prove to be divisive, with opposition to the Pope coming out into the open in Rome over the weekend when anti-Francis posters were put up across the city. It is the believed to be one of the first times that public protests against the Pope have been seen in the Eternal City since the fall of the papal states in the nineteenth century.
Outside of Rome, however, Francis is seen increasingly as a global leader of progressive causes due to his concerns for migrants, inequality and climate change and his frequent calls for a compassionate world order.
PICTURE: Pope Francis takes last look at statue of Liberty before leaving New York City, USA on 26 September, 2015.
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