President Donald Trump described his private meeting with Pope Francis as a grand honor. The two world leaders exchanged gifts during a meeting that was reportedly cordial, marking a turn from their more contentious relationship through the media in 2016.
"Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis," Trump tweeted out. "I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world."
On May 23, Trump touched down in Italy during his first diplomatic trip as Commander-in-Chief. The president met with Francis inside of a private study in the Vatican. They were joined by first lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Fox News reports.
Trump and the pontiff reportedly discussed curbing the radicalization of young people across the world. The Vatican's secretary of state urged the president to uphold the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, an international pact to combat climate change.
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The president and the pontiff exchanged gifts expressing goodwill. Francis presented Trump with a medal shaped like an olive branch, three of his own personal writings on family, and a book about the religious duty to safeguard the environment.
In return, Trump gifted Francis with a set of first-edition books penned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a piece from the Civil Rights Movement leader's memorial.
"It is with all hope that you may become an olive tree to make peace," Francis told Trump.
When the two world leaders parted, the president told the pontiff "I won't forget what you said."
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Trump and Francis had a more contentious relationship during the GOP primary. In February 2016, the Pope blasted then-candidate Trump's proposal to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," Francis said while traveling back from Mexico to the Vatican, according to CNN. "This is not the gospel."
Trump had promptly fired back with a statement, asserting "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith... If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS... I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president."
Officials within the Vatican had anticipated that Trump and Francis would have a more amicable exchange when they met in person.
"Trump's bark is worse than his bite," a senior Vatican official told The New York Times.
Later that day, Trump spoke of his encounter with Francis in glowing terms during a meeting with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
"He is something," Trump said of the pontiff. "We had a fantastic meeting. It was an honor to be with the pope."