During an exchange of gifts Wednesday at the Vatican, President Donald Trump gave Pope Francis a large, gold-embossed box set of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.’s books, whereas the pope handed him a few measly sheets of paper.
Contained within the sheets were copies of essays and speeches written or spoken by the pope, including one titled “Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home,” as reported by The New York Times.
Available for review here, this particular essay was written in 2015 and calls for “the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges.” According to Bloomberg, it’s basically a climate change spiel that argues in favor of “urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions.”
As noted by Quartz, the pope’s gift was just “a document with no emphasis on presentation,” while Trump’s one was “huge, heavy, beautiful, expensive.” It was also thoughtful.
It reportedly “highlight(ed) (King’s) powerful and timeless messages of love, understanding, and peace,” according to a White House statement, and it was specifically chosen because the pope referenced King’s life during a speech to Congress two years ago.
Though one might be remiss to criticize one of the holiest people on Earth, it only seems fair to point out that whereas Trump’s gift actually looked and felt like a real gift, the pope’s gift appeared to be nothing more than a tool for proselytization.
It’s quite sad, really, to think that we live in a world so deluged with politics that even someone such as Pope Francis can’t resist taking advantage of a simple, timeless gift exchange to argue a political point or two.
This isn’t to say that the pope is a bad man. Certainly not. It’s to point out, however, that he’s only human, and thus sometimes prone to the same poor judgment as the rest of us. And well, handing the president a climate change essay as a “gift” was definitely a bad call.
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