Pope Francis gave Donald Trump his book on the importance of protecting the environment as the president heads to a meeting of world leaders who are set to urge the president to honor the U.S.’s commitments on climate change.
Trump shook hands with the pope after a half-hour conversation in the pontiff’s private study in the Vatican on Wednesday morning and presented Francis with a special edition of the works of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
“Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis. “I won’t forget what you said.”
While no further details were given of their conversation, Francis’s choice of gift suggests he may have added his voice to those who are urging Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. In 2015, the pope published a 181-page encyclical calling for an urgent, drastic cut in fossil-fuel emissions to avert a “spiral of self-destruction” that he blamed on rich nations and the structure of the global economy. Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
No two world leaders would seem to have less in common. Beyond their disagreements on the environment, Francis wants the world’s doors swung open to refugees, while Trump wants fewer of them in America. Income inequality is a serious concern for the pope -- the billionaire president plans to rewrite the U.S. tax code to make the wealthy even richer.
The meeting at the Vatican was their first and was arranged at Trump’s request.
For the president, it’s an encounter that may confer some legitimacy as he grapples with a political crisis back home. For Francis, it’s a chance to influence a leader who, for all his stumbles, remains the most powerful person in the world.
"There’s a whole range of issues on which the pope and Trump differ, but the point of their meeting isn't to forge agreement on them or to change each other's minds," papal biographer Austen Ivereigh said in a telephone interview. The point is to establish a bond of trust, which they can both call on in the future to further their agendas.
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