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Pope Francis, Trump meet in Vatican for private talk

By Ed Adamczyk
Pope Francis, Trump meet in Vatican for private talk
President Donald Trump (L) met with Pope Francis (R) in a private, half-hour conversation Wednesday at the Vatican. Two two leaders were critical of each other during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and although no details of their conversation were provided, their meeting was cordial. Photo by Alessandra Tarantino/UPI

May 24 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders who have been critical of each other, met at the Vatican for a private, half-hour conversation Wednesday.

For Trump, it was the start of the third leg of a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe in which he held talks with officials representing three major religions. Before arriving in Rome, Trump visited Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West Bank, and he's scheduled to attend a NATO meeting and a G20 summit over the weekend.

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Trump and the pope met privately in a one-on-one conversation in a Vatican study on Wednesday. No agenda was revealed, except that afterward, Trump could be heard saying, "Thank you. I won't forget what you said."

Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, presented the pope a first-edition collection of Martin Luther King's writings. Pope Francis quoted King in his 2015 address to U.S. Congress. The pope gave Trump a collection of books he wrote, as well as a medal crafted by an Italian artist featuring an olive branch symbolizing peace.

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"We can use peace," Trump commented.

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During the 2016 presidential campaign, the pope was critical of Trump's oratory regarding a proposed border wall separating the United States from Mexico to reduce illegal immigration.

"A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," the pope commented, adding his opposition to candidate Trump's encouragement of anti-Muslim sentiment and a promise to ban Syrian refugees from the United States.

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Trump called the remarks "disgraceful," adding "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith. They're using the pope as a pawn, and they should be ashamed of themselves -- that's the Mexican government."

Their meeting Wednesday was cordial, if not effusively friendly.

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