The encounter between light and darkness

José Manuel Vidal is the director of Digital Religion, one of the most important religious publications in the Spanish-speaking world
Photo: Featured photography
20/05/2017
19:57
Jerónimo Andreu / Corresponsal
Madrid
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José Manual Vidal received EL UNIVERSAL to analyze Donald Trump's “unusual” move: visiting in the same trip Israel, the Vatican, and Saudi Arabia.

What is to be expected from the meeting between Trump and the Pope?

–That the President of the world's leading power wants to talk to you and that two leaders meet face to face improves their relation. But Trump's move is sibylline, because in the same tour he will visit representatives from three major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. It is a way of telling Pope Francis that he respects him, but that he is not the only one.

Trump will use the meeting for his benefit?

–It won't be a trip required by protocol. You can tell by the moment he chose. In the beginning of May, Trump approved a decree on “religious freedom” which strengthened the evangelic-protestant lobby; at the same time, repealed the Obamacare and with that he favored economically catholic hospitals in the U.S. He is a strategist and wants to end the tour as friend of the three religions, as the only man capable of making them come to an agreement on subjects such as terrorism, in which he seeks to be champion. And he knows that a photo with the Pope is good advertising.

How will the interview develop?

–It will be like Star Wars: the encounter between light and darkness. The Pope is a wise adult who will deal with a bad-tempered and spoiled child. It is unknown how Trump will react. The Pope will have to deliver his message, but considering Trump's reactions.

Will they discuss controversial matters or they will be discarded to be catious?

–Trump is the incarnation of what the Pope calls “savage capitalism,” and won't miss the opportunity of presenting him the necessity of redistributing wealth, taking care of the environment, respecting immigrants and refugees. Trump also represent the armament oligarchy, and the Pope will tell him that it is essential to end the “World War in peaces” which he feels we are living today.

Will there be concrete approaches?

–This Pope is really political. He will try to save the “solution of the two States” in Palestine. And let's not forget that Francis is directly in charge of the immigration dicastery (the Vatican departments equivalent to a Ministry): that subject is the watchword of his papacy, and he will demand solutions. Two churches are opposed in the U.S.: one pro-life and ultraconservative and another more progressive, which is supporting the sanctuary temples to protect immigrants. The Pope will try to get the best of the bargain for the liberal church.

Who is the strategist in this encounter?

–It is an initiative from the U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, from New York, is who has worked the most to bring closer the White House and the Vatican. He is a very conservative man who supports Trump.

Instead of getting closer, the postures could become polarized?

–It is not expected. The Pope knows that Trump is changing because he cannot impose his agenda. And also that Trump won't give up on his big speeches, but the Pope is flexible and will try to focus on concrete achievements. For instance, he knows that he will never convince him of [building] the wall, but he can reduce the impact of that possible wall.

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