Pope and president meet for the first time

What happened?

President Donald Trump made an official visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis as part of a nine-day overseas tour. Also present were the First Lady, Melania Trump; Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared, now both administration officials; and the US Secretary of State. After an exchange of gifts and pleasantries, the Pope and the president held a private meeting accompanied only by an interpreter, which lasted 29 minutes, according to reports.

What the media are saying

‘‘Photographs taken after their meeting showed a glum-looking Pope,” the Guardian declared, interpreting the occasion as “sombre”, with “tensions to be expected”. This reading was echoed elsewhere – the Independent headlined the story: “Donald Trump receives frosty reception.”

Much of the coverage concerned the official photos, as well as details of gifts exchanged (a box of Martin Luther King’s books from Trump, a peace-themed medallion from the Pope). Coverage tended towards gossip over analysis. The Daily Beast wondered if Pope Francis had “body-shamed” Donald Trump by asking the First Lady: “What do you feed him? Potizza?” Melania replied yes, potizza. The news site said that Trump, “assuming he was in on the joke”, replied: “Pizza!”

What Catholics said

Terry Mattingly at getreligion.org noted that, while the mainstream press was eager to recount past disagreements between the two men, there was little interest in what the common ground might be. The New York Times made no mention of the Vatican’s official statement, which expressed a “joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience”. He wrote: “The sad implication is that many mainstream journalists must have assumed that only ‘religious’ readers would want to know on-the-record details about any common ground explored.”

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