Pope, Reform leader in Vatican meeting share concerns over Trump immigration policies


(JTA) — Pope Francis told the president of the Union for Reform Judaism that he has “concerns” about the Trump administration’s approach to immigration, the group said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs met with the pope privately for 20 minutes on Friday at the Vatican as part of Jacobs’ involvement in helping immigrants and refugees in the framework of the Religions for Peace interfaith organization, the Union for Reform Judaism wrote in a statement.

“We shared our respective concerns about the US Administration’s approach to immigration in particular,” the statement read. “Pope Francis is one of humanity’s most compelling moral voices. I told him that I hoped that his meeting with President Trump would have an impact on that and other issues.”

Trump visited the Vatican on Wednesday during his first visit overseas since he assumed the presidency in January.

Jacobs also wrote that he informed the pope “about the Reform Jewish Movement’s work opposing the Administration’s current efforts to close the gates to refugees, including our endorsing yesterday’s circuit court decision against the discriminatory ban, and that we will join with others to continue to oppose the presidential ban all the way to the Supreme Court.”

On Friday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep in place a hold imposed by a lower court against the White House executive order from March prohibiting the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs was among the social action groups that hailed the ruling.

Prior to their meeting Wednesday, Trump and the pope had exchanged critical remarks.

The pope said last year that a man who thinks about building walls and not bridges is “not Christian,” a sharp reprimand for Trump’s vow to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump said it was “disgraceful” of the Argentine-born pope, who represents just over half of the world’s 2 billion Christians, to question his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said during the campaign.

On Catholic-Jewish relations, Jacobs told the pope that “there were painful chapters in the history of the Church and the Jewish people, but that today’s chapter has moved from fear to love.”

“At the end he asked that we pray together. We stood, we held hands — he blessed me in Italian, then I blessed him in Hebrew with the ancient words of the Priestly Benediction. It will remain one of the most profoundly spiritual and memorable moments of my life,” the Reform leader said.

Separately, Israel’s Channel 10 reported Thursday that Israeli and Vatican officials have launched talks to discuss the possibility of Pope Francis paying a visit to Israel and the wider region in a bid to push peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

A Vatican delegation is expected in Israel next month and is looking at three possible dates for a potential visit this fall, Channel 10 reported, citing unnamed Vatican sources.

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