President Trump is expected to arrive in Rome Wednesday where he will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The two leaders have not historically seen eye-to-eye, as illustrated by Francis’ remarks regarding then-candidate Trump’s plan to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not about building bridges, is not a Christian.” Trump responded by saying that a religious leader who could utter such sentiments was “disgraceful.”
“For all their differences, both men say what they feel and speak clearly and freely, without holding back,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a modern history professor La Sapienza University in Rome and the author of books about the Vatican. “In their own ways, each is very undiplomatic.”
Andrea Tornielli, a veteran Vatican reporter with Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, predicts that Francis and Trump will not issue such blunt criticisms of each other when they meet face-to-face.
“This is not going to be a boxing match,” Tornielli said. “It’s their first meeting, and I think they will both try hard to find some common ground.”
Francis signaled a peaceful meeting when he said in early May, “I never make a judgment about a person without hearing him out. There are always some doors that are not completely closed. We will look for the doors that are at least partially open, enter them, and talk about those things.”
The leaders will meet privately at the Vatican, and are not scheduled for a public appearance together.
Later Wednesday, Trump will tour the Sistine Chapel, and meet with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and President Sergio Mattarella. The group will likely discuss issues related to migration, international security and possible economic partnerships.
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