Pope Francis politely shades Trump’s climate ignorance with a parting gift

I see what you did there, Francis.

CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci
CREDIT: AP/Evan Vucci

Pope Francis and President Donald Trump had their much anticipated first in-person meeting on Wednesday, a 30-minute conversation in which the pope reportedly “did not smile” as he asked the president to work to bring about peace in the world. Despite concern that the two leaders — who hold diametrically opposite views on several issues — might spar during the summit, the exchange appeared to be relatively free of fireworks.

But according to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis did offer Trump a none-too-subtle parting gift as he left: copies of the pontiff’s published works on progressive economics, climate change, and nonviolence.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way (with the possible exception of Amoris Laetitia, a 2016 work on the Catholic church’s developing view of family life).

For example, Francis gave Trump a copy of Laudato Si’, the pope’s famous encyclical on the environment that was published in 2015.


Unlike Trump, who once claimed climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, Francis’ encyclical affirms that global warming has been confirmed by a “very consistent scientific consensus” and that humans are the cause. And while Trump has proposed budget cuts to climate initiatives and threatened to rescind America’s participation in the historic Paris Climate Accords, Francis’ Laudato Si’ insists nations take steps to reduce carbon emissions.

Almost all of the documents Francis presented to Trump conflict with the president’s agenda in some way.

“It is urgent to develop policy so that in the coming years, we drastically reduce carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gas emissions, by, for example, replacing fossil fuels and developing renewable energy sources,” a translation of the encyclical reads.

Francis also handed Trump a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, a 2013 papal exhortation that espouses a deeply progressive view of economics. In it, Francis decried the “idolatry of money” and dismissed trickle-down economics — a centerpiece of conservative monetary policy — as something that has “never been confirmed by the facts.”


Trump, on the other hand, is known to exaggerate his own extravagant wealth, and is currently pushing a budget that will bolster the wealthy while cutting programs that aid the poor.

Francis then made a point to show the president a signed copy of the message he delivered on the 2017 World Day of Peace, in which the pope lifted up nonviolence as a political method for global problem-solving.

“When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking,” Francis declares in the speech. “In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

The pontiff sought to drive the point home by handing Trump a medallion he often presents to world leaders, which depicts an olive tree binding together a broken rock. “I am giving you this because I hope you may be this olive tree to make peace,” Francis said.

“We can use peace,” Trump replied.

Trump, however, has been lauded by conservatives for his willingness to use some of the largest weapons available against militants in the Middle East. He also campaigned on promises to rapidly expand the military, “bomb the hell” out of America’s enemies, and reinstitute the use of water boarding as a tactic.

As he left, Trump promised Francis he would mull over the writings, saying, “Well, I’ll be reading them.”

As they concluded, Francis moved away from policy to have a more lighthearted moment with the President, although the exact meaning appears to be lost in translation: he took First Lady Melania Trump by the hand, looked over at the president, and quipped, “What do you give him to eat?”


UPDATE: According to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Vatican’s Secretary of State also urged Trump to keep America in the Paris climate agreement.

This piece was updated to elaborate on the pope’s “lost in translation” moment.