Historically, the relationship between American presidents and pontiffs is a complicated one. But seldom has a first meeting been as awkward as the upcoming one between Donald Trump and Pope Francis.
When Trump sits down with the spiritual leader of America’s 50-plus million Catholics next Wednesday, he’ll be face-to-face with perhaps the only person with a bigger global megaphone than his own. There will be little common ground between them — Trump sparred with Pope Francis on the campaign trail, and the pontiff has been critical of the president on issues ranging from climate change to immigration to refugee resettlement.
“There is a tradition and a real purpose: you have the leader of the big temporal superpower meeting with the leader of the spiritual superpower, if you will. It’s really an imperative that the two people with that much responsibility for not just their respective domains, but for the world writ large, that they get acquainted and develop a relationship,” said Jim Nicholson, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Republican National Committee chairman who served Ambassador to the Holy See under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.
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