11 April 2017, The Tablet

Trump and Pope Francis meeting 'looking unlikely' despite US President's scheduled trip to Italy for G7 summit in May

Almost 75 years since a US president failed to meet with the head of Catholic Church on first visit to Italy

Donald Trump has not requested an audience with Pope Francis during his scheduled visit to Sicily next month for the G7 summit in what is a highly unusual omission for a US president visiting Italy, Reuters news agency has reported.

There has been plenty of speculation over whether Trump would visit Francis since his first trip to Europe was announced just days after he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The last US president not to meet with the sitting pope on his first visit to Italy was Franklin D Roosevelt who visited an Allied Military installation in 1943 in the country but did not travel to the Vatican in what was a country controlled by the Axis powers during the Second World War.

But on Tuesday, a senior Vatican diplomatic source confirmed to Reuters that the White House had so far made no approaches to the Holy See about a possible meeting, which would be the first between the two men. 

"The situation can change but there are only six weeks left so it looks unlikely at this point," said a diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"The ball is on their side," said another Vatican source. "We have received no request."

Vatican officials have indicated that if the White House wants to find the time for the two world leaders to meet, they will try to schedule it. The US President is also due to attend a meeting of NATO in Brussels on 25 May prior to the G7 meeting in Taormina, in Sicily, on 26-28 May.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy to the Vatican had no comment.

The two leaders have not seen eye to eye since Pope Francis called Trump's plan to build a border wall between Mexico and the US "not Christian" - an assertion that Trump called "disgraceful". The Holy See's stance on a number of issues raised during the US presidential election - including immigration, refugees and climate change - are at odds with Trump's position. 

As a matter of Vatican policy, popes meet with any head of state who requests an audience, regardless of any differences they have.

About 21 per cent of Americans, or 70 million people, are Catholic. Washington has had full diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan saw the Vatican under Pope John Paul II, a Pole, as a crucial ally against communism. Francis visited the United States in 2015 and there are no plans to return, which makes a meeting between the Trump and Francis unlikely in the foreseeable future if they don't meet in Italy next month.

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