Pope Francis will receive US President Donald Trump at the Vatican on May 24, the first official meeting for the two leaders who have found themselves starkly at odds on issues including migration and climate change.
Trump’s morning audience with Francis will come just days before he is scheduled to attend a G7 summit meeting in Sicily.
It will be followed by meetings with his Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
The two leaders have previously staked out opposing policy positions, most notably in a heated exchange through the media while Trump was campaigning in February 2016 to become the Republican Party’s nominee for the White House.
“Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian,” Francis told journalists, responding to a question about the real estate mogul’s anti-immigrant stance. Trump retorted: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”
Trump later softened his tone, saying the pope was misinformed, unaware of the impact of the drugs coming into the United States and a range of security issues that made it necessary to build a wall along the southern US border.
On a visit to Mexico in February 2016 Francis held an open-air mass on the US-Mexico border, where he described forced migration as “a human tragedy.”
More recently, in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais conducted as Trump was being sworn in as president on January 20, Francis warned against populism, saying it could lead to the election of “saviors” like Hitler.
He also condemned the idea of using walls and barbed wire to keep out foreigners. (AFP)