Despite the tone of some of the cable news coverage I’ve been seeing this morning, there was nothing particularly unsettling about the meeting between President Donald Trump and Pope Francis this morning.
All in all, it seems to have been the usual, choreographed bit of performance art which characterizes most Papal meetings with heads of state. But unlike Trump’s previous stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, it’s hard to deny that the temperature seemed a bit “cooler” for this discussion.
Leading up to the meeting the press was already reminding everyone of the less than loving relationship between Trump and the Pope during the campaign and noting their many differences in policy. But as this pool report from Reuters described it, both men carried out their duties in a polite and respectful fashion.
Perhaps we can discern a bit more about the meeting from the gifts that they exchanged. In what seems a rather pointed indicator, the Pope gave Trump bound copies of two of his encyclical letters. They were the 2017 message on peace, “Nonviolence – A Style of Politics for Peace,” and his 2015 letter on the need to protect the world from climate change. Nothing too subtle about that I suppose.
Trump gave the Pontiff a bound, first edition set of the works of Martin Luther King. Was there a message for the Pope there or was it just a recognition of progress and the civil rights era? Tough to say. There were some other gifts exchanged as well, but those were the ones that really stood out to me in terms of messaging and the current state of relations between the White House and the Vatican. And, of course, Trump’s gifts were significantly more appropriate than an iPod loaded with swinging blues classics.