As President Donald Trump prepares to meet Pope Francis tomorrow morning, a former apostolic nuncio to the United States has welcomed the president’s pro-life record so far although he hopes he will change his campaign position on immigration.
Speaking to the Register May 20 while taking part in this year’s March for Life in Rome, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said Trump has “certainly been doing some things in favor of protecting life.”
“It’s still only at the beginning, and I know it’s not easy for him in this situation,” he said. “The way he has been proceeding since the start of his presidency has made him more enemies than he had before, but I hope that he’s going to be able to survive this situation.”
In his first four months as president, Trump nominated pro-life Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, as well as signed an executive order reinstating the “Mexico City Policy” that bans non-governmental organizations, including International Planned Parenthood, from receiving government funds for providing or promoting abortions overseas.
The administration expanded the policy across all global health assistance funding, ensuring that taxpayer funds do not support organizations involved in coercive abortion programs, such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Earlier this month, the administration further widened the Mexico City Policy so that more forms of foreign funding would be directed to organizations that do not perform or support abortions overseas.
In January, Trump tweeted his “full support” for the March for Life saying it was “so important” while also sending Mike Pence to the event, making him the first Vice President to address the march.
Archbishop Viganò, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington from 2011 until 2016, said that the “question of immigrants was certainly a weak part during the electoral campaign” but that he hoped Trump will “be able to change his position.”
The administration’s immigration policies drew opposition from the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, while Pope Francis publicly clashed with Trump over his plans to have Mexico pay to build a wall on the Mexican-US border to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.
Returning from Mexico in February 2016, the Pope said “anyone who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.” Almost exactly a year later, Francis appealed “not to create walls but to build bridges” and said “a Christian would never say ‘you will pay for that’. Never.”
The issues are likely to be discussed at Wednesday’s audience which takes place at 8.30 in the morning, before the Pope’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
But issues in common will also be discussed, and it is these that both the White House and the Holy See are likely to emphasize. National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said earlier this month Trump’s talking points will include religious freedom, cooperating with the Church on humanitarian issues, and combating religious persecution and human trafficking.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, will meet with the Sant'Egidio lay community to discuss human trafficking, and First Lady Melania Trump will visit the Bambino Gesu children’s hospital near the Vatican, the largest paediatric hospital and research center in Europe.
When Trump arrives at the Vatican, he will be greeted by the chargés d’affaires of the embassy to the Holy See rather than an ambassador as his nominee for the position, Callista Gingrich, has only just been announced and she has yet to receive Senate approval.
Archbishop Viganò wished her well in the position, having come to know her, and her husband, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while in Washington.
“I used to see her at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in the choir there,” the retired Vatican diplomat said. “Also her husband was always there on the many occasions when I celebrated Mass there at the shrine. He gave a strong witness.”
Archbishop Viganò said he hoped Callista Gingrich will be able “to understand the situation in the Church and in Rome” as it is “quite different from Washington.” The Vatican is “a unique situation,” he said, but added she would be ably assisted by the embassy’s staff, particularly political and economic chief, Peter Martin, whom he had gotten to know when Martin was stationed in the U.S. capitol.
Vatican television will carry a live feed of some of tomorrow's meeting here: