ROME — President Trump tweeted on Wednesday following his meeting with Roman Catholic leader Jorge Bergoglio, also known as “Pope Francis,” that his audience before “his holiness” was “an honor of a lifetime.”
“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” Trump wrote, generating over 97,000 likes.
He also changed his Twitter banner to feature a photograph of himself sitting across from Bergoglio during the 30-minute meeting.
“The pope and the president discussed how religious communities can combat human suffering in crisis regions, such as Syria, Libya, and ISIS-controlled territory,” the White House explained in a press release. “The president affirmed that the United States and the Holy See share many fundamental values and seek to engage globally to promote human rights, combat human suffering, and protect religious freedom.”
The two later exchanged gifts as Trump gave Bergoglio a set of books by Martin Luther King, Jr., a piece of granite from the King memorial in the nation’s capital, and a sculpture that represented “hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”
Bergoglio gifted Trump with a medallion bearing the image of an olive branch, explaining, “I give this to you so that you can be an instrument of peace.”
“We can use peace,” Trump replied.
The Roman Catholic leader also gave the president copies of three of his essays, including his 192-page encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” which elaborates his climate change concerns. According to CNN, Bergoglio also “blessed a rosary,” which he gave to First Lady Melania Trump, who wore a black veil to the occasion.
“He is something,” Trump remarked of the visit. “We had a fantastic meeting. We’re liking Italy very, very much and it was an honor to be with the pope.”
The Vatican likewise released a statement about the meeting, expressing hopes “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.”
As previously reported, in February 2016, Trump expressed offense when Bergoglio suggested that he was not a Christian because of his desire to build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants.
“[A] person who only thinks about making walls, wherever it may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the pontiff stated during a flight back to Rome from Mexico. “This is not the gospel.”
When asked if he would influence Roman Catholics during the election, Bergoglio stated that he did not wish “to get into that,” but repeated his statement with the notation that he wished to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.
“I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that,” he said. “We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”
Trump quickly shot back, calling Bergoglio’s remarks “disgraceful.”
“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said at a campaign rally. “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.”
“I’m proud to be a Christian, and as president I will not allow Christianity to be consistently attacked and weakened, unlike what is happening now with our current president,” Trump added.
He later stated that he felt Bergoglio’s comments had been inflated by the media, advising that he did not wish to fight with the Roman Catholic leader because he’s “a wonderful guy” and “I have a lot of respect for the pope.”