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Trump Hails Meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican as ‘An Honor’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pope Francis meets US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/pool

Pope Francis received US President Donald Trump at the Vatican on Wednesday for a short private audience on the third leg of his overseas trip.

Under clear blue skies, Trump, who exchanged sharp words with the pope during the US election campaign last year, received a tribute from the Swiss Guard in a Vatican courtyard when he arrived to meet the pope.

Following behind Trump were his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, a top White House aide, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and adviser Hope Hicks.

Trump entered a small elevator taking him to the third floor of the Apostolic Palace and, after a long ceremonial walk past frescoed corridors, shook the pope’s hand at the entrance to the private study.

The two world leaders, who symbolize starkly different views of the world, talked privately for about 30 minutes with translators. Smiling broadly, Trump was heard to say “thank you so much,” before commenting, “it is such an honor to be here.”

Francis urged Trump to be a peacemaker at their first face-to-face encounter on Wednesday and Trump promised he would not forget the pontiff’s message.

Trump and the pope have expressed opposing views on issues such as immigration and climate change.

At the end of the private encounter the pope, smiling and looking far more relaxed, gave the president a small sculptured olive tree symbolizing peace. Trump thanked him and said, “we can use peace.”

Speaking in Spanish through an interpreter, the pope also gave Trump a signed copy of the message he delivered at the last World Peace Day and three of his major writings including his 2015 encyclical on the need to protect the environment.

“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Trump said.

He gave the pope a boxed set of writings by Martin Luther King.

As Trump left he told his host, “thank you, I won’t forget what you said.”

Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis, his third stop on a nine-day foreign tour due to end on Saturday, was part of his world tour of religions after meeting leaders of Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia and visiting holy sites in Jerusalem.

After the meeting, Trump moves on to Brussels for a NATO summit, followed by the last stop on his trip, at a Group of Seven summit in Sicily.