President Donald Trump made an official visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis as part of a nine-day overseas tour. Also present were the First Lady, Melania Trump; Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared, now both administration officials; and the US Secretary of State. After an exchange of gifts and pleasantries, the Pope and the president held a private meeting accompanied only by an interpreter, which lasted 29 minutes, according to reports.
What the media are saying
‘‘Photographs taken after their meeting showed a glum-looking Pope,” the Guardian declared, interpreting the occasion as “sombre”, with “tensions to be expected”. This reading was echoed elsewhere – the Independent headlined the story: “Donald Trump receives frosty reception.”
Much of the coverage concerned the official photos, as well as details of gifts exchanged (a box of Martin Luther King’s books from Trump, a peace-themed medallion from the Pope). Coverage tended towards gossip over analysis. The Daily Beast wondered if Pope Francis had “body-shamed” Donald Trump by asking the First Lady: “What do you feed him? Potizza?” Melania replied yes, potizza. The news site said that Trump, “assuming he was in on the joke”, replied: “Pizza!”
What Catholics said
Terry Mattingly at getreligion.org noted that, while the mainstream press was eager to recount past disagreements between the two men, there was little interest in what the common ground might be. The New York Times made no mention of the Vatican’s official statement, which expressed a “joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience”. He wrote: “The sad implication is that many mainstream journalists must have assumed that only ‘religious’ readers would want to know on-the-record details about any common ground explored.”
Mattingly drew attention to the Catholic site Crux. Its headline read: “Pope and Trump focused on life, religious freedom and conscience, Vatican says.” The contrast could not be greater, wrote Mattingly.
✣Cardinal Müller intervenes in row over Amoris
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has reaffirmed the Church’s traditional doctrine on Communion. Cardinal Müller told EWTN that Amoris Laetitia did not allow the divorced and remarried to receive Communion, except possibly when they try to live “as brother and sister”.
Why was it under-reported?
In recent decades, the head of the CDF has been a figure of major importance who can be relied upon to give a sense of what the Pope is thinking. But under Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller has played a much smaller role. The Pope fired three members of the congregation despite the cardinal’s protests. (Asked about this, Cardinal Müller said: “I think we can only dismiss people if they make a mistake.”) So his words can be more easily ignored – and those who would like to challenge the existing teaching have a motive to ignore them.
What will happen next?
The four cardinals’ dubia – a request for clarification of Amoris Laetitia – could theoretically be answered by Cardinal Müller. But this seems unlikely, given how marginalised his position is. Instead, dioceses and bishops’ conferences are more likely to issue interpretations of Amoris Laetitia. Asked about statements from bishops in Malta and Germany that contradict the traditional teaching, the cardinal said that Amoris “must be read in the context of the complete Catholic tradition”, or the results would “damage the Catholic Church”.
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will mark 50 years of the Catholic charismatic renewal on Saturday with a prayer vigil at Circus Maximus, an open field that is the site of an ancient Roman stadium. Participants will join the Pope the next morning for Pentecost Mass in St Peter’s Square. The movement traces its origins to a retreat held at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
Next weekend, Spirit in the City takes place in Leicester Square. Events include a play about Óscar Romero, a prayer tent with Eucharistic adoration and a conference on the refugee crisis. More details can be found at spiritinthecity.org.
The 50th anniversary of Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral will be celebrated this week. From today until Monday the cathedral will be filled with flowers. On Saturday night there will be a golden jubilee dinner in the crypt. On Sunday Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool will celebrate a thanksgiving Mass attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
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