Ambassadors advise Trump, Francis to mend fences in upcoming meeting

(NCR Online) Although Pope Francis said Saturday he will not be seeking to soften U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies during their meeting next week, the encounter is doubtless a rare opportunity for a global moral voice to influence a leader who keeps an unusually tight circle of advisors.

The range of possible issues up for discussion during the May 24 tête-à-tête is vast. Francis could compare Trump’s withdrawing of federal environmental regulations with his 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. Or the pontiff could sharpen his earlier public critique of the planned U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“The significance of this meeting can’t be understated,” said Douglas Kmiec, a Republican who served as former President Obama’s first ambassador to Malta. “Francis could change the course of the times that we live in.”

While it is unknown just what the pope might choose to tell the president, Kmiec and three former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See told NCR in interviews they expect the pontiff to take advantage of the opportunity before him in what is expected to be a half-hour encounter. They also said they hope Trump does the same.

Francis Rooney, who served as Holy See ambassador under George W. Bush from 2005-08, said he would advise Trump to recognize he can “take advantage [of] Vatican diplomacy, particularly the soft power influence it wields in the world.” [More]


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