Popes and presidents — 29 intersections

ROME – Unless there’s an unexpected change in schedule – and, with these two mavericks, one never knows – Pope Francis and President Donald Trump will meet each other for the first time on Wednesday.

The encounter will take place in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where the pontiff meets most heads of state who visit him.

The two have spoken about each other, but this will be the first time they actually address one another directly.

This will not, however, be the first time a U.S. president and the pope meet.

It won’t even be the first time Francis has encountered an American president, as he’s met with Barack Obama twice, once in Rome and once in Washington.

Ahead of Francis’s meeting with Trump, it’s worth looking back at previous times popes and presidents have intersected, and what was said about those meetings at the time.

That first time
The first sitting U.S. president to meet a pope was Woodrow Wilson, back on January 4, 1919. He encountered Benedict XV at the end of the First World War.

The first president to meet a pope was Ulysses S. Grant, who paid a visit to Pope Leo XIII in 1878, but it was after Grant had left office.

Theodore Roosevelt had an appointment with Pope Pius X for April 1910, but decided to skip it at the last minute due to his unwillingness to abide by the Vatican’s protocol.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only sitting president since Wilson who, while visiting Italy, didn’t meet with the pope.

It happened in 1943, when he traveled to the country to see Allied military installations as part of a November 20-December 9 tour that took him to several countries, including Malta, Senegal, Tunisia, and Egypt.

Roosevelt wasn’t snubbing the pope: Rome was occupied by the Germans at the time, and the only part of Italy the president visited was Allied-occupied Sicily.

Back to Wilson. Continue reading


  • Crux article by Inés San Martín, an Argentinean journalist who covers the Vatican in Rome for Crux.
  • Image: Bella Naija
Additional reading

News category: Features.

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