Trump team keen on meeting with Pope: reports

Luminosity Italia

The U.S. has not made a formal request for President Donald Trump to have an audience with Pope Francis when he travels to Taormina, Sicily for a G7 summit in May, Vatican sources told the ANSA news agency on Feb. 14, but widespread reports say back-channel efforts are underway.

Trump is reportedly keen to meet with the Pope, but he could have bridges rather than walls to build beforehand.
Pope Francis
While in flight to his Mexico visit, Pope Francis said “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian”.

The two leaders have already had a sharp exchange over Trump’s anti-immigration stance. As well, there could be a chasm over fake news, which the Pope has likened to scatological obsession. Trump’s closest advisor Steve Bannon is the former executive director of the alt-right website Bretbart News, which has been accused of trafficking in sensational stories.

Michael M. Grynbaum and John Herman from the The New York Times describe Breitbart News as an organization that is a source of controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist”.

Further complicating connections is the man reportedly now acting as de facto liaison between the White House and the Holy See, Thomas Williams, a scandal-tainted former priest who serves as Rome correspondent for Bretbart News. Williams resigned from the priesthood in 2013 after admitting he fathered a child with the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, who he subsequently married.

Months before the U.S. election, Pope Francis criticized Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, saying “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian”.

“I'm a very good Christian,” Trump responded during a campaign rally in South Carolina. “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

Reports say Bannon, himself an avowed Catholic, is driving the bid for a meeting with the Pope.

Bretbart correspondent Williams, 54, is now acting in an unofficial role as liaison between the Vatican and Washington because the Trump administration has not appointed an ambassador to the Holy See, reports Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Thomas Williams, Bretbart News
No longer a priest, Thomas Williams serves as Rome correspondent for Bretbart News. He is reportedly helping with back-channel communications between the White House and Vatican.

Though defrocked, Williams continues to be a research fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame University in the U.S, according to information on his own website.

The site says Williams has served as consultant and commentator on faith, ethics and religion for NBC, CBS and Sky News, “covering papal trips and church affairs”, but does not mention his work for Bretbart News.

The Bretbart website itself, however, does list him as its Rome bureau chief. Among the other skills listed on Bretbart is his status as a “certified sommelier”.

Williams’s wife is the daughter of former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor and one of the highest-ranking women at the Vatican as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences. She is also one of five people on the Pope’s commission to reform the Vatican bank.

Williams told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that “White House is investigating the possibility and would like to set up” an audience with the Pope.

“The Pope knows he will have to deal with Trump eventually. They don’t see eye to eye, it’s true, but they both see it as important to have an open channel of communications,” Williams told the Telegraph. “It behooves them both to forge a decent relationship. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is tension.”

The Bretbart correspondent said that “Bannon sees the Pope’s support for mass migration as naive” in the face of Islamic radicalism.

Williams also served as theological consultant on Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of Christ”, which was shot in Italy.

As he and his in-laws work to help facilitate a meeting between Trump and the Pope, events appear to be overtaking the new president as the latest firestorm erupts over questions about his Russia connections. Some are wondering if the new president’s first wall will be to shield himself from further scandals of his own.

May now seems a long way off.