Donald Trump once called Pope Francis “disgraceful” for criticizing him back in 2015, before accusing him of being a pawn for the Mexican government. That bizarre response came after the head of the Catholic Church told reporters that he thought the plans by Trump, then a contender for the presidency, to build a divisive border wall wasn’t Christian.
So, naturally, when Trump and the Pope met in Rome this Wednesday, there was perhaps a little bit of tension in the air. It’s safe to say that the two men are not each other’s fans, and the above photograph – a veritable meme generator – really speaks for itself.
Still, Trump seemed to enjoy himself. He tweeted after the 30-minute rendezvous that it was the “honor of a lifetime”, and that he was “more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.” We have no clear information as to why he felt the need to Internet-shout the word “peace”, but there you go.
There was also the obligatory and somewhat ceremonious giving of gifts between the two leaders. For his part, Trump gave the Bishop of Rome a set of five first edition books by Martin Luther King – a rather pleasant present, by any measure. The Pope, being a rather savvy operator, handed over a copy of Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home.
This is a collection of writings, or an “encyclical”, on climate change and environmental protection, authored by the Pope himself. Released in 2015 in nine languages, it criticizes relentless consumerism, reckless development, the destruction of biodiversity, and – in particular – explains the need for everyone to pay attention to the science of climate change and help cut back on carbon emissions.
We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Trump doesn’t really care about climate change. He’s leaning towards exiting from the Paris agreement, and he recently signed away plenty of Obama-era climate change prevention measures. He thinks wind is “very deceitful”.
The President did promise the Pope that he would indeed read the encyclical, but we’re not sure if he’ll end up keeping this promise. The encyclical – which is a good read, regardless of your religious inclinations – is 45,000 words, or 80 pages, long, and Trump doesn’t have much patience for reading.
As reported by the New York Times, foreign diplomats have some guidelines for talking to Trump in order to keep him listening. These included: keep it short, compliment him on his Electoral College victory, and don’t monologue – his 30-second attention span won’t be able to handle it.
Unsurprisingly, this encyclical breaks all three of these rules. Oh well – thanks for trying, Your Holiness.