They are two of the most influential men in the world, one the commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation in the world and the other the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. President Donald Trump and Pope Francis met face to face on Wednesday; they shook hands before the president was ushered into his study for a private meeting of two world leaders with world-views that seem worlds apart.
This visit in Rome caps a tour of the ancestral homes of three of the world’s great religions. The trip started with a stop in Saudi Arabia, then moved to Israel and eventually Rome. President Trump was joined in meeting the pope by the First Lady, Melania Trump, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner. The president was also accompanied by the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster.
The Pope and the President have some things in common. They were both elected to their positions as outsiders, promising to be a voice for the forgotten; and they both are committed to reach out to the world of Islam and hopefully end extreme violence. But that is where the similarities end. They have diametrically different views on immigration, climate change, and arms sales. The Pope focuses on peace through dialogue and diplomacy and the President is using exchange with the security of arms. Trump came to Rome after securing a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. President Trump originates from the glamor of Trump Towers around the world, and Pope Francis has made his mark through modesty. The Pope arrived at his meeting with Trump in his Ford Focus. Each leader has a different plan to restore balance to the world economic system. The President is focusing on the engines of capitalism, and the Pope is focused on protecting individuals and the disadvantaged from worldwide dehumanizing forces.
But even with all of these differences, the Pope said that he was not looking for a confrontation when they met. When asked what the Pope expected from the meeting he said, “In our talk, things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.” That is a different position than the Pope previously took when he said this about Trump, “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” President Trump quickly responded at a political rally in South Carolina, “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.” And Trump followed with this highly charged warning, “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president.”
With that history, there must have been a sigh of relief from both teams when the Pontiff and the President came from their meeting with smiles and a handshake. The Pope handed out rosaries to all the members of the Trump delegation before the whole group posed for pictures. President Trump said that in their meeting, the Pope told him something that he will never forget. It seems like the two men were able to focus on their similarities instead of their differences.
What do you think about their visit?
Credit: New York Times