Meetings between United States presidents and Popes usually happen after a request from the White House.
This request is made in order for the presidents to see the Holy Fathers during trips to Italy and the rest of Europe. This has been the case for years.
Hence, people’s surprise when Donald Trump seemly showed no interest in meeting Pope Francis although he had made plans to meet with other world leaders.
According to Reuters, no official request had been made at the time of the report. “The situation can change but there are only six weeks left so it looks unlikely at this point,” a diplomat added.
The issue was compounded when the Vatican confirmed the news saying, “The ball is on their side. We have received no request.”
Now, recent reports say that both parties are actually going to meet at the Vatican on May 24, 2017 during Trump’s first trip abroad as president to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium.
This is definitely good news for the presidency as former President Obama had two meetings with Pope Francis and Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in 2009.
However, this news does not change the fact that a meeting between Pope Francis and Trump has the potential to be very awkward since both of them have criticised each other.
In January, Francis said: “Under your leadership, may America’s stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need.”
Another subtle dig at the president was made when asked about Trump’s proposal to build walls.
Speaking to reporters, he said: “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”
“I am not going to get involved in that. I would only say that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
To this, Trump responded with this, “for a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
On the eve of election, the Pope let everyone know how he felt by delivering an ‘anti-Trump’ speech, without actually mentioning his name.
“No tyranny finds support without tapping into our fears. This is key. Hence, all tyranny is terrorist….
Walls that enclose some and banish others. Walled citizens, terrified on one side, excluded, exiled, and still more terrified on the other. Is that the life that our Father God wants for their children? Dear brothers and sisters, all walls fall. All of them. Do not be fooled”, he said.
After the election, Pope Francis suggested that he may have lost faith in American Christians.
“True Christians do not treat anyone differently, talk bad about them or look down on them. God help poor Mexicans, Africans and Cubans who wanted to realize American dream.
I am not sure whether we still can vouch for the faith of American Christians, as they need more wisdom looking at the leader they finally elected”, he said.
Based on these statements, it is clear that the Pope Francis is not a fan of the president. So, a meeting between can only be awkward.