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In unusual omission, no Trump-pope meeting planned during Italy G-7

Left, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Dec. 19, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Scott Morgan Right, Pope Francis addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at U.N. headquarters in New York City on Sept. 25, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Mike Segar

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) In what would be a highly unusual omission, President Trump has not asked to meet Pope Francis during the president’s visit to Italy next month for the Group of Seven summit, sources said.

Trump, who Francis suggested was “not Christian” if he wanted a wall on the Mexican border, is due in Sicily on May 26-27 for a meeting of the heads of the world’s richest nations.

The two men have diametrically opposing positions on immigration, refugees, climate change and unbridled capitalism. Trump called the pope’s criticism of his plan to build the Mexico wall “disgraceful.”

U.S. presidents have in the past made a beeline for the Vatican while they were in Italy or Europe in order to meet with the head of the world’s largest Christian church. Only one of them, John Kennedy, was a Roman Catholic.

President George W. Bush met with a pope six times, three times each with Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

“The situation can change but are only six weeks left so it looks unlikely at this point,” a diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Tuesday (April 11).

A senior Vatican diplomatic source confirmed 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 ball is on their side,” said another Vatican source. “We have received no request.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican had no comment.

Open door

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

Besides being leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the pope is a head of state. Such meetings allow for an exchange of views on world affairs and a chance for the pope to encourage ethical solutions to world problems.

About 21 percent 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.

Vatican officials have indicated that if the White House wants to squeeze in a meeting with the pope on Trump’s schedule in Europe, they will try to oblige. Trump is due to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 before going to Sicily for the G-7.

Francis visited the United States in 2015 and there are no plans for a return in the foreseeable future, so it is not clear when a meeting between the two men could take place.

Last year, in response to an answer about then-candidate Trump’s views on immigration and his intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Francis said a man with those views is “not Christian.”

Trump, who grew up in a Presbyterian family, shot back saying it was “disgraceful” for the pope to question his faith.

In March, Cardinal Peter Turkson, a close aide of the pope, urged Trump to listen to “dissenting voices” and reconsider his position on climate change, after Trump signed an executive order dismantling Obama-era environmental legislation.

Francis has made defense of the environment a key plank of his papacy, strongly backing scientific opinion that global warming is caused mostly by human activity.

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Philip Pullella

12 Comments

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  • Bannon would not allow Trump to meet with thjs pope. Perhaps Trump could meet with more appropriate Catholic big shots, Cardinal BUrke or Cardinal Law, or both. People with views in line with Bannon’s.

  • Are you implying that it matters who is saying the things that are being said? Shouldn’t we as catholics align with catholic doctrine, whether it comes from Burke or whoever else?? We have tradition and scriptures to follow the catholic compass. Considering your sarcastic tone towards faithful catholic cardinal I am wondering whose side are you on?

  • It’s all right if President Trump and Pope Francis don’t get to meet. Faithful American Catholics will understand.

  • There’s no reason for Trump to meet the Pope. The Pope is his enemy and why should Trump give publicity to his enemy? Ignoring this leftist blabbermouth seems good policy to me.

  • As an active Catholic who attends Mass regularly and donates many hours to Church interests, I’m sorry to say I agree with President Trump’s decision to pass on a meeting with Francis.

  • Why would anyone want to meet with Bergoglio?
    There is nothing there but protracted adolescence in the grip of geriatric dementia.
    It would serve no purpose.

  • The Pope was openly critical about Trump before he was elected. This was very unusual, clumsy and somewhat offending. Diplomacy has rules. So Trump makes it clear that he doesn’t care of the Pope’s opinion.

  • The religious head of the Catholic church needs to stay out of American politics. Its a church, one religion of many that is practices in the US. It is only one flavor of Christianity and by the majority of Christians is considered to have gone off track from the Christian message centuries ago. Treating the Pope as a government ruler only gives the catholic church what it wants, to act as if it is king of the world. Yes I know the vactican is technically a state, a holdover from when the catholic church did rule Europe.

    Those days are gone. Thankfully.

  • Trump called the pope’s criticism of his plan to build the Mexico wall “disgraceful.”

    Oh ye of little faith.

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