President Donald Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday was mostly cordial, but there were still plenty of uncomfortable moments.
The Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee, the White House pool reporter documenting the scene, noted that the initial mood at Wednesday’s meeting seemed “stiff,” and that the pope appeared “rather stone-faced.”
The pope was not particularly warm when shaking hands with Trump. Per the pool report:
“Thank you so much,” President Trump said to Pope Francis when they
After shaking hands, the pope and POTUS walked into the pope’s
private study, which is just off the room where they shook hands.
When pool entered the study, the pope and the president were seated
across from each other at the pope’s wooden desk.
POTUS told the pope it’s “a very great honor.”
The pope did not say anything. He did not smile. He looked at pool
Another bizarre moment occurred while the pope greeted Trump’s family. He asked first lady Melania Trump about her husband’s dietary habits.
“What do you give him to eat, potizza?” he said, referring to a dessert from her native Slovenia. (It was initially reported that he said “pizza.”)
But the mood in the room reportedly “lightened considerably” when Trump and the pope exchanged gifts.
Pope Francis gave Trump several documents that he typically gives to visiting dignitaries, including a copy of his lauded 2015 address on climate change. Trump has said he believes climate change is “a hoax” created by the Chinese.
The president was reportedly “effusive” in his thanks and told the pope, “I’ll be reading them.”
Climate change is just one of several major issues on which Trump and the pope disagree. Last year, the pontiff was also highly critical of Trump’s signature campaign pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” he said.
Trump responded by calling the pope “disgraceful” and writing a threatening Facebook post.
“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened,” Trump wrote.
The pope, who comes from an immigrant family, has also stressed the importance of helping immigrants and has encouraged more action on the international refugee crisis ― which sharply contrasts Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric and his executive orders that target undocumented immigrants and halt refugee resettlement in the U.S.
Trump and the pope discussed “the promotion of peace in the world,” according to the Vatican’s press office. The president described Wednesday’s meeting as “great” and “fantastic.”
“It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the Vatican said in a statement.