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Trump 'Determined to Pursue Peace' After Talks with Pope


Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and President Donald Trump stand with Pope Francis during a meeting, May 24, 2017, at the Vatican.

President Donald Trump says he is "more determined than ever to pursue peace in our world" following wide-ranging talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The White House says the two sides discussed "how religious communities can combat human suffering" in places such as Syria, Libya and Islamic State controlled territory.

"The president affirmed that the United States and the Holy See share many fundamental values and seek to engage globally to promote human rights, combat human suffering and protect religious freedom," a White House statement said.

Trump, in a Twitter comment, called the meeting "an honor of a lifetime."

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the issue of the Paris climate accord came up during Trump's talks with a senior Vatican official.

"The president indicated that we were still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision," he told reporters, adding that Trump would make a decision after his current overseas trip.

Trump and Pope Francis shook hands as they met for the first time Tuesday.

“It’s a very great honor,” Trump said to the leader of the Roman Catholic Church while they were seated in the pope’s private study.

WATCH: Pope greets Trump

Trump Meets Pope at Vatican
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After the president’s private meeting with the pope in the Apostolic Palace there was a brief, expanded audience for the other members of the U.S. delegation. It included First Lady Melania Trump, (clad in a black lace tea-length dress and black lace veil), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner (who are both now official advisors to the president).

Gift exchange

That encounter included an exchange of gifts.

"This is a gift for you. These are books from Martin Luther King. I think you will enjoy them," the president told the pope.

The pope gave Trump what he said was a medal by a Roman artist. He said it's an olive which is a symbol of peace.

“We can use peace,” the president replied.

“I signed it personally for you,” the pope told Trump.

“That's so beautiful,” the president replied.

The pope then also gave the president three books on the topics of family, the joy of the gospel and “care of our common home, the environment.”

“Well, I'll be reading them,” Trump promised the pope.

WATCH: Trump and Pope Francis exchange gifts

Trump, Pope Exchange Gifts
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Cordial discussion

The mood initially appeared stiff, according to the few reporters allowed to witness the event firsthand. They noted the pontiff was rather stone-faced at the beginning but later during the gift exchange the mood lightened considerably.

The pontiff had a “cordial” discussion with the U.S. president, according to the Vatican, which said it hopes for collaboration on "healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants."

The two men had a clash of words last year when Trump, as a presidential candidate, touted his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The first Jesuit pope said anyone who thinks of building walls instead of bridges “is not Christian,” a comment that Trump called “disgraceful.”

The evening before the audience a top Vatican official, Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is from Ghana, took to social media to note that both the president and the pope are reaching out to the Islamic world to exorcise it of religious violence.

“One offers peace of dialogue, the other security of arms,” he said on Twitter, apparently referencing the $110 billion weapons deal the U.S. president concluded with Saudi Arabia days ago.

(Front R-L) Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, May 21, 2017.
(Front R-L) Jordan's King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, May 21, 2017.

Prior to the meeting with Trump when asked about his expectations for it the pope told reporters he “never, ever wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person.”

After a tour of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, the president left Vatican City and held separate meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.


Trump then flew on Air Force One to Belgium. On Thursday, he and the First Lady are to meet King Philippe and Queen Mathilde at the Royal Palace of Brussels. Later in the day the president will participate in the inauguration of a new headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a meeting of the alliance’s leaders, although it is not being termed a formal summit.

On Friday and Saturday, the president is back in Italy, specifically on the island of Sicily, for the Group of Seven summit.

During his earlier stop in Israel, Trump declared that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are “ready to reach for peace.”