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Pope Francis and Trump meet at Vatican

24 maggio 2017 | 14.55
LETTURA: 3 minuti

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Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/AFP

Pope Francis held a private meeting with United States president Donald Trump at the Vatican on Wednesday, which covered international affairs, interfaith dialogue, healthcare and assistance to immigrants, the Vatican said in a statement.

The two leaders had an "exchange of views" on several unspecified international issues, and spoke of the need to continue good bilateral relations, the statement said.

They shared a commitment to "life, and freedom of worship and conscience" and expressed hope that they can collaborate "in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to migrants".

The "cordial discussions" included the need for political negotiation to resolve conflicts and build peace in the world, interreligious dialogue, especially in the Middle East, and the protection of Christian communities, the Vatican stated.

Francis, one of Trump's most high-profile critics, did not smile as he greeted a beaming Trump outside the study. Trump, seeming subdued, said "it is a great honour" before heading into the potentially awkward audience.

Trump, who arrived at the Vatican with a convoy of at least 50 cars amid a security lockdown, was accompanied to the audience by his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, wearing black dresses and veils, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and national security advisor HR McMaster.

After their meeting, the leaders exchanged gifts. Trump gave the Pope a boxed set of writings by the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, while Francis gifted Trump a signed copy of a message he delivered for World Peace Day, along with some of his writings about the need to protect the environment. "Well, I'll be reading them," Trump told him.

Trump also met the Vatican's secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, and its secretary for relations with states, Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican said

Francis and Trump, who have expressed radically different views on climate change, migration, capitalism and relations with Islam, had a public spat last year during the US presidential campaign, when Francis called Trump's plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico "unchristian".

Trump retorted that it was "disgraceful" of the Pope to doubt his religious faith.

Francis said last week he would be "sincere" with Trump but did not want to judge him before listening to him in person.

Trump was also due to tour the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica with Melania, a Catholic during his Vatican visit. Melania was then slated to visit the Vatican-owned Bambin Gesu pediatric hospital, while Ivanka and her husband took part in a roundtable on human trafficking at the Community of St Egidio Catholic charity.

The US president was later scheduled to meet Italy's head of state Sergio Mattarella and prime minister Paolo Gentiloni before flying to Brussels to attend a NATO summit there on Thursday.

Trump will then return to Italy to attend the G7 summit in Taormina on the island of Sicily on Friday, the last leg of his first overseas trip as US president.

The four-nation tour, aimed at uniting Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders in the fight against Islamist terrorism, has included stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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