Contrary to earlier reports, President Donald Trump will meet with Pope Francis when he travels to Italy next month for meetings with the G7 leaders, U.S. and Vatican officials said Wednesday.
When asked about a possible meeting, White House press spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that officials would be contacting the Vatican to arrange a meeting between Trump and the Pope during the latter’s visit to Italy at the end of May
“Obviously, we’d be honored to have an audience with His Holiness,” he said.
For his part, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican equivalent of a deputy prime minister, confirmed to the Italian news agency ANSA that “Pope Francis is always ready to receive heads of state who request an audience.”
In last November’s election, Catholics voted for Donald Trump by a substantial margin over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with 52 percent voting for Mr. Trump and only 45 percent voting for Mrs. Clinton, the Pew Research Center reported. The victory for Trump among Catholics represented a significant 5 percent shift away from the Democratic Party in the four years since 2012.
Among Christians who regularly attend services the divide was still greater, with weekly churchgoers voting for Trump at a margin of 56 percent over 40 percent for Clinton. Those Christians who attend church just a “few times a year” split fairly evenly between the two candidates, while Mrs. Clinton gained a sizable victory (31 points) over Trump among those who do not practice their faith.
In February, the White House announced that Mr. Trump would travel to Taormina, Sicily, for a summit of G-7 leaders in late May. Just over a week ago, the Financial Times reported that President Trump would not come to Rome to meet with the Pope on this trip, citing unnamed “US and Vatican officials.”
Despite a dust-up between Pope Francis and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump last year over the question of the U.S.-Mexican border wall, the two men share common ground on a large range of issues. Both leaders oppose abortion and euthanasia, defend religious liberty and conscientious objection, emphasize job creation, support the traditional family, and have spoken out strongly in defense of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Even on the question of immigration, Pope Francis later walked back earlier statements, asserting in January that “every country has the right to control its borders,” especially where the risk of terrorism exists.
Woodrow Wilson was the first US president to ever travel to Italy, seeing Pope Benedict XV during his visit to the country in 1919.
The U.S. and the Holy See established diplomatic relations during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in 1984, and to date there have been 10 U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican.