The two disagree openly on such weighty issues as immigration, climate change and economic policy
FILE - . They are stylistic and strategic opposites, one a bombastic and ostentatious president, the other a modest though worldly wise pontiff. They disagree on global issues ranging from immigration to climate change. (AP Photo, File), photo: AP/File
23 of May 2017 12:51:16
VATICAN CITY — They are stylistic opposites, one a bombastic tycoon-turned-president, the other a famously modest pope. They disagree openly on such weighty issues as immigration, climate change and economic policy.But President Donald Trump and Pope Francis share a trait that adds drama to their first meeting Wednesday: unpredictability. And when they greet each other — in a Vatican ceremony laden with history and symbolism — they may well find common ground, particularly in denouncing religiously inspired violence and demanding Muslim leaders take a greater stand in rooting out fanaticism from their places of worship.To reach public harmony, the two men, unquestionably two of the most famous figures on the planet, will have to set aside their past and very public conflicts.When Trump took his oath of office on Jan. 20, Francis sent him a telegram of congratulations, offering his prayers for wisdom and strength that the new president's decisions would be guided by ethical values."Under your leadership, may America's stature continue to be measured above all by its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need, who, like Lazarus, stand before our door," the message read.It was a subtle reminder that the two leaders had gotten off to a very rocky start over their different views on migration. Francis early last year was sharply critical of Trump's campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.[caption id="attachment_60254" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] An Italian Police bomb disposal expert walks towards an abandoned bag found along Viale della Conciliazione avenue leading to St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Photo: AP/Andrew Medichini[/caption]"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," Francis said then. The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a "moral imperative" and "Christian duty" to help.Trump has never been one to let an insult, perceived or real, go by without a response, and he made no exception for the world's best-known religious leader. He called Francis "disgraceful" for doubting his faith.Trump's visit to the Vatican is the third leg of his tour of the world's three main monotheistic religions, coming after he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism. While pope and president differ on many social and economic issues, the two are preaching from the same playbook in demanding that Muslim leaders take a greater stand against extremists in their mosques and communities. It's likely that both sides will seek to highlight such common ground after their Wednesday morning audience.In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Trump implored Middle Eastern leaders to extinguish Islamic extremism from the region and described it as a "battle between good and evil" rather than a clash between the West and Islam. Those words echoed what Francis said in a trip to Egypt last month as the pope demanded the country's imams teach their young to reject the use of violence in God's name and backed an Egyptian government crackdown on Islamic militants who have increasingly targeted the country's Christian community.
JONATHAN LEMIRENICOLE WINFIELD