Evangelical advisers to Donald Trump are requesting a meeting with Pope Francis after Vatican-backed condemnation aimed at the White House and at the political leanings of American Catholics.
It comes after a prominent Jesuit journal published a criticism of US Catholics for forming an alliance with Trump-supporting conservative evangelicals to promote a ‘nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state’ and a ‘xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls’.
The article in La Civiltà Cattolica accuses evangelicals and their Catholic supporters of misreading the Bible to promote conflict and warns against using anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage rhetorics for political mobilisation.
The highly critical piece allegedly received Vatican backing and prompted the request for a meeting.
Written by Johnnie Moore, an evangelical adviser to Trump and board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the letter sent to the Vatican praises the pontiff’s ‘commitment to the poor’ and ‘efforts to build bridges and to spread the doctrine of mercy around the world’.
Moore says he is writing ‘at a time of historic Christian persecution in more places than perhaps at any time in Christian history’ and asks for a meeting ‘to find ways in which we can cooperate on matters of great concern to us all’.
He writes: ‘It’s in this moment of ongoing persecution, political division and global conflict that we have also witnessed efforts to divide Catholics and Evangelicals.
‘We think it would be of great benefit to sit together and to discuss these things. Then, when we disagree we can do it within the context of friendship. Though, I’m sure we will find once again that we agree far more than we disagree, and we can work together with diligence on those areas of agreement.’
Vatican-US have been strained since the start of Trump’s ascendency after Pope Francis described the campaign pledge to build a wall with Mexico as ‘not Christian’. The Pope has also spoken against rising populism around the world and frequently contradicted Trump’s view of Muslim refugees fleeing Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
However there are similarities between their approach to social issues, with both Catholics and Trump’s White House opposing abortion and supporting the protection of religious minorities, particularly Christians.
Although evangelicals were more involved in backing Trump’s campaign and propelling him to victory, exit polls reveals the New York billionaire also won the Catholic vote by seven points – a major swing from 2012 where Obama won most of the Catholic vote.