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  1. ITV Report

'We can use peace': Donald Trump holds talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican

US President Donald Trump and Pope Francis set aside their differences during a meeting at the Vatican to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

The two collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of Mr Trump's campaign pledge to build an impenetrable wall on the Mexican border and his declaration that the United States should turn away Muslim immigrants and refugees.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," Francis said then.

The pontiff has been a vocal advocate for aiding refugees, particularly those fleeing the violence in Syria, deeming it both a "moral imperative" and "Christian duty" to help.

Mr Trump then called Francis "disgraceful" for doubting his faith.

Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience at the Vatican. Credit: AP

However, the pair met with a handshake on Wednesday morning ahead of a private 30-minute meeting.

Mr Trump is the 13th president to visit the Vatican and, as part of his tour, he visited the Sistine Chapel along with his wife Melania.

The meeting ended with a gift exchange and a lighthearted moment between the pope and the first lady.

Francis gave the president a medal featuring an olive branch, a symbol of peace, among other gifts.

“We can use peace,” the president responded.

Trump presented the pontiff with a custom-bound, first-edition set of Martin Luther King Jr.’s works, an engraved stone from the King memorial in Washington and a bronze sculpture of a flowering lotus titled Rising Above.

“I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do,” Trump said.

A smiling Francis then asked Melania, via a translator, “What do you give him to eat, potizza?” referring to a favourite papal dessert from her native Slovenia.

"Yes," she confirmed.

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Credit: AP

The Vatican said it hopes for "serene collaboration" with the United States after the meeting.

In recent days, Francis and Mr Trump have been in agreement on a need for Muslim leaders to do more against extremists in their own communities. But there are few other areas where their views align.

The president's prior anti-Muslim rhetoric, including his musing that Islam "hates" the West, is the antithesis of what the pope has been preaching about a need for dialogue with Muslims.

Francis also differs sharply with Mr Trump on the need to combat climate change and economic inequality.

The US President is halfway through a nine-day, maiden international tour.

His visit to the Eternal City comes after two stops in the Middle East where he visited the cradles of Islam and Judaism.

Where the pope and the president agree:

  • Both have said Muslim leaders need to do more against extremists in their own communities

The men have potential to disagree on:

  • The president’s prior anti-Muslim rhetoric - including his musing that Islam “hates” the West - the antithesis of what the pope preaches about a need for dialogue with Muslims
  • The need to combat climate change and economic inequality
  • Trump’s budget, which is set to slash funding to initiatives that help the poor
  • The president’s agreement to sell military equipment to Saudi Arabia