Saudi Arabia and Israel on Agenda for Trump's First Foreign Visit

"My first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome", Trump said in a Rose Garden announcement. Press secretary Sean Spicer has insisted Trump "would be honored to have an audience with his holiness", but how the encounter will actually go remains unclear, given their past.

Senior sources told Reuters Trump was expected to meet the Pope on May 24.

Senior White House officials said today that President Trump's upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Italy will seek to unite the leaders of different nations and religions in the fight against radicalism and intolerance.

A second senior administration official said that a recent visit to Saudi Arabia revealed an open-mindedness to stepping up and leading in a way the official had not seen in the country since right after 9/11.

Trump said Thursday in a White House ceremony with faith leaders that his first trip will start in Saudi Arabia and include meetings with leaders across the Muslim world.

Francis recently called for the US and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula - an issue that is likely to feature in any Vatican audience. Both the Vatican and the White House announced the meeting Thursday.

Criticising the billionaire's anti-immigrant rhetoric, the Pope said: "Anyone, whoever he is, who only wants to build walls and not bridges is not a Christian".

And he wrote an entire encyclical about the environment, and the moral imperative to save God's creation, denouncing how the wealthy had destroyed the planet at the expense of the poor.

But the two always found ways to collaborate, promoting initiatives to fight human trafficking and working to bridge the US detente with Cuba.

Meanwhile, the president has signed an executive order created to ease a ban on political activity by churches.

This story has been corrected to show that the meeting is at the end of this month, not next month.

  • Joey Payne