President Donald Trump is bound to embark on his first foreign trip later this month. He’s destined to travel to Saudi Arabia, followed by Israel and the Vatican. Mr. Trump’s Vatican visit will include a meeting with the Pope.
Mr. Trump referred to the trip as a way to promote religious tolerance in remarks at an executive-order signing in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. He also said that his visit to Saudi Arabia will include a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world.
President Trump expressed his enthusiasm ahead of the trip as he emphasized that Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam, and it is there that he intends to begin construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with the Muslim allies, to combat extremism, terrorism, and violence.
Trump also said that his administration's task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity, and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East.
The historical tour will conclude with stops at a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25 and at the G-7 summit in Sicily the following day. Trump’s first foreign visit is typically a milestone for a new president. It’s worth noting that the stakes are high for White House staff, who are seeking to firm up alliances overseas.
The stop at Vatican comes after months of public back-and-forth on immigration with Pope Francis. In the presidential campaign, the pope seemed to question Trump’s professed Christian faith, telling reporters, that a person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.
In response, Trump charged back by saying that the remarks were disgraceful, adding that he liked the pope before he heard them. Mr. Trump also emphasized that no leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.
Following Trump’s inauguration this year, Pope Francis has continued to criticize the president and his agenda. Back in February, he urged an audience at the Vatican not to raise walls but bridges, not to respond to evil with evil, to overcome evil with good and again suggested that Trump’s behavior was not in line with the values of Christianity. Sometime last week, Israeli officials confirmed that they've been in talks with the White House about arranging the visit to Jerusalem.