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Trump calls meeting Pope Francis the ‘honor of a lifetime’

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump during a private meeting Wednesday at the Vatican. (Evan Vucci/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump called his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday the “honor of a lifetime.”

Trump wrote on Twitter, “I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.”

The highly anticipated meeting between the two men came after they exchanged criticisms of each other’s positions on issues such as refugees, immigration, and climate change.

As a presidential candidate, Trump called Pope Francis “disgraceful” when the leader of the Catholic Church said that Christians should seek to build bridges, not walls. Trump campaigned on the promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

But a spokesperson for the Vatican described the Wednesday discussions as “cordial.”

The spokesperson also said that “satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience. It is hoped that there may be 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.”

“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,” the spokesperson said.

Trump and Pope Francis exchanged gifts during their visit. The president gave Pope Francis a first edition set of books written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The pope quoted King during his 2015 address to Congress.

Pope Francis gave Trump an olive tree medal, saying that it symbolizes peace. He also gave the president a set of his own encyclicals, which address topics like the family, the Gospels, and the environment. Trump thanked the Pope and vowed to read the gifts.

According to CNN, the president met privately with Francis and then the pontiff met with members of the president’s family and staff.

CNN reported that as Trump left the meeting he was heard telling the pope, "Thank you. I won't forget what you said."

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