That Pope Francis is a man of deep faith has never been a question. But to understand the profound depths of that faith, look no further than to the pontiff’s Wednesday meeting with President Donald Trump, where, as part of an exchange of gifts between the two world leaders, Trump was given a copy of “Laudato si,” Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter urging theologically driven environmental activism in the face of climate change.
That’s right. Donald Trump—a man whose notoriously short attention span has prompted heads of state to rethink their entire approach to diplomacy—got a big ol’ homework assignment.
Francis’ gift is an particularly impressive act of faith on the pope’s part given Trump’s preference for pretty pictures in his reading material (the nearly 200-page encyclical has none) and comes as the two attempt to mend, or at least give the appearance of moving past, a history of public disagreements on the subjects of immigrants, capitalism, and, yes, the environment. Less than two months ago, the Vatican implored Trump to heed “dissenting voices,” when it comes to the president’s push to undo environmental protections.
In a statement released shortly after the Pope’s meeting with Trump, the Vatican described their discussion as “cordial” and expressed “satisfaction” on the “joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience.”
“It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the statement said.
After receiving the Pope’s gift, Trump reportedly responded, “Well, I’ll be reading them.”