(ANSA) - Rome, May 24 - United States President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he had a "fantastic meeting" with Pope Francis and described the Argentine pontiff as a "great person" as he spoke with Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni at Villa Taverna, the residence of the US ambassador to Rome.
"I'm liking Italy very much," he said. "It was an honour to meet the pope". The encounter between the pope and Trump took place in the library of the papal apartment early on Wednesday and lasted about half an hour.
"It is a great honour to be here," Trump said as he was received by Francis.
After the talks, the president's delegation was let in and there was the exchange of gifts. "I will never forget what you said to me" Trump said as he shook hands with Francis and said goodbye. The Vatican released a statement about the talks Trump had with Francis and, afterwards, with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. It said the discussions "enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities". In the gift exchange, the pope gave Trump a medallion with an olive branch as a symbol of peace, as well as copies of his three main teaching documents. "We can use peace," Trump said. The books included one on "care of our common home: the environment". The president gave the pope a first-edition set of writings by Martin Luther King Jr. and a bronze sculpture titled "Rising Above" that the White House said "represents hope for a peaceful tomorrow."
"Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis," Trump posted on Twitter. "I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world".
Trump's delegation included his wife Melania and his eldest daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared Kushner, as well as former bodyguard Keith Schiller and social media director Dan Scavino.
Trump met Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinal Palace between the encounters with the pope and Gentiloni and left Rome to fly to Brussels later on Wednesday.