Vatican City, Feb 7, 2017 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis could meet with President Donald Trump at the end of May. The British newspaper The Tablet, citing diplomatic sources, said the two will meet during President Trump’s visit to Italy. Trump will go to the G7 summit of world leaders meeting held May 26-27 in Taorima, Sicily.
The president and the Pope have sometimes been put at odds. During a Feb. 18, 2016 in-flight press conference, Reuters reporter Philip Pullella asked the Pope to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand. Pope Francis answered: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” The pontiff added he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate.
One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States. Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Feb. 19 told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy, bridge-building.
The U.S. bishops have responded critically to the Trump administration’s recent executive orders. One bars refugee admissions for 120 days and places an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. It bars visa permissions for seven predominantly Muslim countries on the terror watch list and restrictions on refugees for 90 days. The executive orders, which are facing legal challenges, also cap refugees at 50,000, compared to the 2016 cap of 117,000 and actual admitted refugees, who numbered 85,000 last year.
The Pope has made refugee assistance a key focus of his papacy and has temporarily named himself head of the refugee and migration section of the new Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. Father Michael Czerny, secretary of the dicastery, told CNA that the Holy See plans for the U.S. bishops to be its first line of communication and engagement with the U.S. government on immigration and refugee issues.
“They’re responding very well,” Fr. Czerny said of the bishops. “And for the moment, they’re the people to listen to on this issue.” Other positions of the new president could have a bearing on U.S. relations with the Holy See.
While President Trump previously favored legal abortion, as a candidate he campaigned on promises he would support pro-life policy goals and he re-instated a policy barring federal funds for overseas organizations that promote or perform abortion.
Although President Trump was a deeply controversial presidential candidate, his surprise victory in November took place with significant Catholic support. According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit polls by NBCnews.com and CNN.com, Trump secured 52 percent of Catholic voters, including 60 percent of non-Hispanic white Catholics. He lost Hispanic Catholic voters to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 67-26, though this was an improvement over 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s performance among the same demographic.