More perspective on the upcoming meeting.

After Saudi Arabia and Israel, President Trump is going to the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis this coming Wednesday morning. Because of the time difference, live coverage of the event will begin at 11:15 pm (PDT) Tuesday night on the Vatican Youtube channel.

Here’s a brief chronology of how such meetings usually take place:

Papal visits with heads of state are carefully arranged bits of political and religious theater. They follow a specific and routine schedule, with little room for deviation or unwanted surprises.

While the royalty, president or prime minister making the trip to the Vatican may fret the details, sending teams months in advance to plan out each moment, the city-state’s objectives are clear: protect the pope’s image and influence, and then fade into the background to let the pope handle the meeting as he wants.

As Ken Hackett, the most recent U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, said in a recent interview: “From the Vatican’s point of view, it’s pretty normal fare for them to deal with heads of state. They’ve been doing it for centuries. They know exactly what they will do and can do.”

When U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to meet Pope Francis on the morning of May 24, he will . . . (Read the whole article here.)

To put the importance of this meeting in perspective, yesterday (Sunday) at his Regina Coeli address in St. P{eter’s Square, the Holy Father spoke at length about the coming of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised in the Gospel of the day and announced the creation of five new cardinals from El Salvador, Laos, Mali, Spain, and Sweden – not one of them from the United States. He lamented the continuing slaughter in the Central African Republic, including the killing by Christian militias of 30 civilians who took refuge inside a mosque. He also noted that Wednesday, May 24 is the celebration of Mary, Help of Christians, who is

venerated in the Sheshan Shrine at Shanghai. To the Chinese Catholics I say: let us raise our gaze to Mary Our Mother, that she may help us to discern the Will of God regarding the concrete path of the Church in China and support us in accepting her plan of love with generosity. Mary encourages us to offer our personal contribution for communion among believers and for the harmony of the whole society. Let us not forget to witness the faith with prayer and with love, always keeping ourselves open to encounter and dialogue.

Shanghai remains a focal point of the disunity caused by the “official” government-controlled Catholic Church in China.

He began today, Monday, May 22, by meeting with Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland. Here’s is the brief official Vatican report of this meeting. Then he met with the General Chapter of the Sisters Disciples of the Divine Master, and gave them this talk on “one of the most important apostolates of today is the apostolate of the ear: listen“. (This community has an estgablishment in Los Angeles, the Liturgical Apostolate Center, and are a member of the Pauline family of religious communities founded by Blessed James Alberione. They are a sister community of the Daughters of St. Paul here in Culver City

At midday today, the Holy Father presided at the beginning of the week-long annual meeting of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

Yes, Pope Francis has a lot on his plate – and his mind and heart – this week. Let us pray for him and Mr. Trump, for our own country, and for our world as Wednesday approaches.

One last comment, and then I’m letting go of this until Wednesday. Most commentators seem to agree that Mr. Trump will want to press his agenda, while the Holy Father will try to build a relationship, seeking present and future opportunities to collaborate on mutual interests for the common good. We’ll see what things look like on Wednesday.

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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