President Donald Trump left the Vatican praising Pope Francis and calling the meeting “an honor of a lifetime.”
While the two leaders have vastly different views on key issues from environment to immigration, they appeared to focus on finding common ground during the visit.
The Vatican described the discussions as “cordial.” A statement said views were exchanged on international affairs and the promotion of peace.
As a gift, Pope Francis gave Trump a medallion with an olive tree, symbolizing peace, as well as some of his writings on peace and climate change.
“Two of the issues that are the most pressing things that the world is facing, right now,” said Professor Mark Markuly, dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. “I think the Pope and the president actually have some pretty divergent approaches to both, which would have for a very interesting conversation.”
Markuly noted that Trump has talked about peace through strength whereas Pope Francis believes in peace through dialogue and negotiation.
“I would hope that he would at least develop a better sense of all the complexities of all these issues,” said Markuly. “It might make him more open to relying on a broader group of consultants who might try to help inform him about the best way to make decisions in a very complicated part of the world.”
In a tweet following the visit, Trump tweeted “I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”
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
Promoting peace and fighting extremism has been a central theme of his first foreign trip that focuses largely on faith and the three Abrahamic religions.
“I think it probably means that he wants to position himself in a place to draw strength from the great religions of the world. That would be a great benefit to him,” said Father Peter Ely, S.J. of Seattle University.
The Vatican said it hopes for collaboration in the areas of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants, topics that Pope Francis may have touched on during his 30-minute meeting with the U.S. president.
“I would like to believe, I would hope that something in Pope Francis’s way of living and being and speaking would reach into the heart of Donald Trump and touch something," said Ely. "That would we see some changes. I will be watching.”