- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
At the Vatican on Wednesday, President Donald Trump met with Pope Francis.
The third leg of Trump’s first overseas trip, the stop in the Vatican always carried the potential for an awkward encounter, after the two men rhetorically skirmished during the presidential campaign.
But there were few fireworks as the two met privately for around 30 minutes, and exchanged gifts. Trump gave Pope Francis a first-set edition of the books of Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as a bronze statue by a Florida artist called “Rising Above,” apparently meant to signify a peaceful tomorrow. Pope Francis gave Trump a medallion in the shape of an olive tree, the symbol of peace (“We can use peace,” Trump said), and also his own writings on family, “the joy of the gospel,” and “care of our common home, the environment.”
The last one — the Pope’s 2015 encyclical on climate change and the environment, the year he addressed the United Nations — tells rich nations they must pay their debt to their poorer counterparts to deal with our common “ecological crisis.”
If Trump ever read “Laudato Si,” he hasn’t shown it. In March, he signed an executive order to kill former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. He has also proposed drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, has airbrushed most references to climate change out of government websites, and is reportedly considering pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement.
Of the writings, Trump said, “Well, I’ll be reading them.”
Trump described his visit with Pope Francis as “fantastic” and the “honor of a lifetime.” (Trump has felt much of the trip was an honor — indeed, he called his visit to Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, “a great honor.”)
Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world. pic.twitter.com/JzJDy7pllI
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2017
“He is something,” Trump said in response to a question from the Associated Press. The sentiment, it is safe to assume, was mutual.
Photo credit: EVAN VUCCI/AFP/Getty Images