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Roman Catholics Hope Vatican Visit Will Signal Trump-Pope Reset


U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Pope Francis, May 24, 2017, at the Vatican.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit Wednesday to Rome brought parts of the center of the ancient city to a grinding halt, infuriating some locals but acting as another spectacle for tourists to absorb. Views about President Trump on the streets were decidedly mixed.

As Pope Francis welcomed President Trump to the Vatican for their first-ever face-to-face encounter, Eva, a devout Catholic from Boston visiting Rome and the Holy See, expressed relief that the meeting had even taken place.

“I think it was fabulous that the pope decided to meet with Trump,” she said.

WATCH: Trump Meets Pope at Vatican

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church and Trump traded pointed exchanges last year during the U.S. presidential campaign, with Trump accusing the pope of allowing himself to be used as a political pawn by the Mexican government on the issue of migration.

The pope responded by questioning then-presidential candidate Trump’s Christian faith, saying his plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico had no basis in the Gospel.

Eva said she hoped the meeting gave the pair the opportunity to make peace.

“I hope they were reconciling with one another in respect to how they were quite adversarial in terms of what was said during the campaign — the pope saying certain things, and Trump saying many things. And I hope they reached some sort of meeting of the minds on several issues.”

The Vatican expressed similar sentiments in a statement issued after the meeting in which it said the encounter had been “cordial.” It went on to say it hoped there could be “serene collaboration” between the U.S. government and the American Catholic Church, including, it said pointedly, “assistance to immigrants.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pass a Swiss Guard as they arrive at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pass a Swiss Guard as they arrive at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.

Trump received a tribute from the Swiss Guard in a Vatican courtyard when he arrived.

A Vatican protocol official was heard by reporters quipping to the president that it was not like Trump Tower in New York.

Pope Francis smiled at Trump when he greeted him and first lady Melania Trump, but some Vatican watchers say he was not as outwardly friendly as he can be with visiting dignitaries. The pope, however, joked with the couple as they left.

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.
Pope Francis exchanges gifts with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.

Outside the Quirinale Palace, the Italian president’s official residence, where a small crowd mostly of tourists gathered to catch a glimpse of Trump in the distance down a closed avenue, 50-year-old Ragna, a Danish banker, said she did not really know why she was waiting.

“I really don’t know because we have never come near a president because we don’t like Trump,” she said. “I hope he will disappear soon.”

A young Canadian couple, expressing fears of terrorism in Europe in the wake of this week’s concert bombing in Manchester, England, was more welcoming of the U.S. leader. Twenty-two-year-old Samantha, a travel agent, gave her reason for wanting to see Trump.

“I have just been a huge fan of him. I think he, you know, is real and is unlike any other president we have had,” she said.

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.
Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, May 24, 2017.

Her 19-year-old boyfriend, Daniel, who works for a Canadian airline, said he hoped Trump’s visit would help Europe become more stable.

“We hope he can bring some more stability because Europe has been quite unstable for the past year or so and even more than that. So we can hope he can bring more stability while also keeping things peaceful and not escalating things too much,” he said.

Nearby, a middle-aged British couple, sweating in the sweltering heat, said they only stopped because the road was closed. The husband declined to be interviewed, explaining gruffly he did not like politics.

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