By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
Despite perceptions in some quarters that they represent competing visions of the world, U.S. President Donald Trump on March 13 reached out to Pope Francis, offering him congratulations on behalf of the American people on the fifth anniversary of his election to the papacy.
“My family and I treasure the memory of our visit to the Vatican last May. I was honored to discuss with you many of the urgent global issues of shared concern to the United States and the Holy See,” wrote Trump.
“Our conversation underscored the enduring importance of moral leadership in the international community, and of our continued close cooperation as we work to advance peace and defend human freedom around the world,” he continued.
In a closely watched half-hour meeting on May 24, President Trump and Pope Francis met for their first encounter and pledged their “joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience,” according to the Vatican communiqué at the time.
“The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities,” it said.
Trump also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and British Archbishop Paul Gallagher, in effect the Vatican’s foreign minister, in keeping with the usual protocol for a visiting head of state.
“As you enter the sixth year of your pontificate, please accept my best wishes for the continued success of your ministry,” Trump wrote on Tuesday.
Following the May meeting, the Vatican issued a statement expressing their desire for a “serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.”