The Latest: Trump says he had ‘fantastic meeting’ with pope

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Latest on President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad (all times local):

12:39 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he had “a fantastic meeting” with Pope Francis earlier Wednesday.

The president offered brief remarks as he sat down with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in Rome.

Trump tells reporters, “It was an honor to be with the pope.” He adds of the pope: “He is something.”

Trump ignored a question about whether they discussed climate change.

The president arrived at the Villa Taverna shortly after noon, following a meeting with the country’s president at Quirinale Palace.

He’ll be departing Rome for Brussels later today.

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12:05 p.m.

The Vatican says after a visit by President Donald Trump that it is hoping for “serene collaboration” with the United States to help immigrants and provide health care and education in the U.S.

Trump met for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning with Pope Francis and afterward with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

In a statement, the Vatican said the two sides agreed on their “joint commitment in favor of life and freedom of worship and conscience.”

The statement continued: “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.”

It said talks also covered promoting peace through dialogue with people of other faiths.

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11:58 a.m.

Ivanka Trump says she came to a Catholic charity in Rome to meet with several women who have been freed from human traffickers so she can hear about “their struggles and how they will build their lives.”

Still dressed in black after her earlier visit at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, President Donald Trump’s daughter spoke briefly to reporters as she stood under a grape arbor in the courtyard of the Rome headquarters of the Sant’Egidio Community.

She said the liberated African women she was going inside to meet were testament to “strength, faith, perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity.”

Community officials said she would be chatting with several women from Nigeria who had been trafficked into prostitution before becoming free in Rome. At least one Eritrean woman was also invited to the closed-door conversation sitting around a square table.

Ivanka Trump has had meetings about the subject at the White House.

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11:26 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Trump was greeted by Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace in Rome on Wednesday morning. The meeting follows a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Trump is expected to next meet with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Trump is in the middle of his first international trip – a nine-day journey through the middle east and Europe. He will leave for Belgium later on Wednesday.

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11:01 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at Quirinale Palace for his meeting with the Italian president.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump had been scheduled to have private tour of the Sistine Chapel before the meeting.

The intimate chapel features Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “The Last Judgment,” behind the altar as well as the iconic “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling. Works of other Renaissance greats, including Botticelli and Perugino, line the walls.

The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of tours of the Vatican Museums as well as a functioning part of the Vatican.

Trump also met with the Vatican secretary of state Wednesday following his meeting with the pope.

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10:40 a.m.

Ivanka Trump plans to meet with human trafficking victims in Rome.

Trump will meet Wednesday with African women who have been freed in Italy from human traffickers. The encounter was arranged by the Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio Community, which has ties with the Vatican and which has helped Syrian refugees arrive safely in Italy via “humanitarian corridors.”

The president’s daughter and adviser has held meetings at the White House on human trafficking.

Community officials said several women will chat with Trump. She was expected to make a brief statement to the media after the closed-door meeting at the charity’s headquarters.

Ivanka Trump was part of the delegation that met Pope Francis with President Donald Trump Wednesday.

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10:30 a.m.

Pope Francis shared a light moment with First Lady Melania Trump.

After Francis met with President Donald Trump he was introduced to members of Trump’s delegation, including Mrs. Trump. Smiling for the staff, Francis asked via translator, “What do you give him to eat, potizza?”

He was referring to a local pastry – though some thought he’d said “pizza.”

When it comes to food, the president is known for his traditional American palette. When he traveled in Saudi Arabia, caterers ensured that his favorite meal – steak with a side of ketchup – would be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine.

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9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump has gifted Pope Francis a first-edition set of writings from Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump presented Francis with the books after a private meeting at the Vatican Wednesday. The White House notes that Francis spoke about King and his civil rights legacy during his address to Congress in 2015.

The White House said the set includes the five books King wrote in his lifetime. Each one is custom bound and the books are in a custom display case. A piece of granite from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Memorial in Washington is also included.

The White House says the gift “honors Dr. King’s hope, vision, and inspiration for generations to come.”

Trump also gave Francis a bronze sculpture. Named “Rising Above,” the White House says it “represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow.”

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9:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump appeared moved by his private meeting with Pope Francis, telling the pope that he “won’t forget what you said.”

The president and pope have a contentious history and disagree on a host of issues, including environmental protection.

The White House did not immediately provide details about what was discussed during their 30-minute private conversation. But the two men appeared on good terms Wednesday, including during a traditional gift exchange.

The pope’s gifts to Trump included a medal by a Roman artist depicting an olive branch, which is a symbol of peace.

The president responded, “We can use peace.”

The pope also gave the president a signed message of peace along with copies of his three main teaching documents.

The president told the pope he’d be reading them.

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9:28 a.m.

Rome police say Greenpeace activists briefly projected the message “Planet Earth First” on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on the eve of the pope’s meeting with President Trump.

Police said in a statement Wednesday that the officers allowed the action to proceed for “a few moments” given the peaceable nature of the protest. They then identified all of the activists participating, eight total.

Trump met early Wednesday with the pope, and the environment is one key area of difference. Pope Francis has made protection of the environment a keystone of his papacy, issuing a major encyclical on climate change. Trump’s administration, meanwhile, is reviewing policies related to climate change and the reduction of green gasses.

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9:09 a.m.

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis are exchanging gifts after a private meeting.

Trump and Francis met privately for about 30 minutes Wednesday morning at the Vatican.

Pope Francis gave the president copies of his three main teaching documents as parting gifts, as he typically does for visiting heads of state. The red leather-bound booklets to some degree define his papacy and priorities. Some of the main themes contained in them contrast sharply with President Donald Trump’s policies and campaign promises, particularly concerning approaches to the environment and income inequality.

Trump’s gift for Francis was wrapped in a big blue box. The president said he was delivering “books from Martin Luther King. I think you’ll enjoy them. I hope you do.”

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9:03 a.m.

Pope Francis is meeting first lady Melania Trump, Trump’s oldest daughter Ivanka, and other members of the U.S. delegation.

Mrs. Trump smiled and chatted with Francis after the two warmly shook hands.

Francis also shook hands with other members of the president’s team, including former bodyguard Keith Schiller and social media director Dan Scavino.

The greetings happened after Trump and Pope Francis held a nearly 30 minute private meeting.

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8:31 a.m.

President Donald Trump is meeting Pope Francis for the first time.

Trump greeted Francis in Sala del Tronetto, the room of the little throne, on the second floor of Apostolic Palace Wednesday morning.

The men shook hands and Trump could be heard saying it was a “very great honor” to be there.

They then posed for photographs and took a seat at the pope’s desk to continue their conversation. They will now meet in private

Prior to the handshake, Trump walked toward the Saint Ambrose room, led by Gentlemen of his Holiness, which is a sort of honor guard of nobility. He was joined by his wife Melania Trump, who had a veil on her head, in adherence to Vatican tradition.

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8:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived at the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.

Trump arrived Wednesday morning at the Apostolic Palace for an audience with the pontiff. The meeting comes midway through his 9-day international trip.

The president and pope have not always seen eye to eye. The two men’s often opposite worldviews collided head-on early last year, when Francis was sharply critical of 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.

Papal audiences usually last for about 20-30 minutes of private talks, followed by introductions of delegations, a photo and exchange of gifts.

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