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|The Mercury News||-|
Pope Francis (R) meets with US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump during a private audience at the Vatican on May 24, 2017.
In an exchange shown by The Guardian , the pontiff jokingly asks the first lady: “What are you feeding him, potica?” The pontiff, shaking Melania’s hand, was referring to a popular Slovenian cake.
While the Vatican could not confirm the remark, it did say that Francis loves potica and always mentions it when he meets a Slovenian. But it looks unclear whether Melania, a Slovenian-born former model, understood what the pope was saying. She asked whether he was referring to pizza before smiling and saying yes.
This tension seemed to be best captured by a photo of Francis, Trump and Melania and Ivanka Trump. The president is smiling broadly, but no one else is: the Pope and Melania looked grim while Ivanka looks stoic.
“Smiles and pleasantries aside, the atmospherics of this meeting were fraught,” the Times said.
That’s because Francis and Trump have diametrically opposed views on issues as varied as immigration, climate change and arms sales, the Times said, adding, “Although both men seemed determined not to let politics intrude on their encounter, the underlying tensions were clear.”
The pope’s “stone face” lasted through most of the audience, People said. In the first minutes of the meeting, the pope did not say anything to Trump and did not smile.
Melania, likewise, doesn’t appear to be smiling in most photos from the audience. She was joined by stepdaughter Ivanka and Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner into the meeting with the pope.
“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, told CNN.
With that protocol in mind, Melania arrived to meet the pope wearing a black veil and a black dress, which was at least a pretty and lacy Dolce and Gabbana ensemble. Ivanka, who is a White House assistant to her father, wore a similar outfit with a larger veil.
For Trump’s first official visit overseas, Melania has faced as much scrutiny for her fashion choices and demeanor as her husband has for his statements to world leaders.
For the most part, she has maintain an admirably poised, though reserved regal presence. She has smiled warmly when meeting members of the Saudi royal family or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, or when talking to children during a tour of a pediatrics hospital in Rome.
But other gestures on Melania’s part have gone viral and renewed speculation about the state of the first couple’s marriage and her feelings about her husband.
This was especially the case when Melania wouldn’t take the president’s outreached hand as the two deplaned at the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Rather than indulge her 70-year-old husband in what many regard as a routine gesture of affection between loving married couples, Melania swatted his hand away.
Footage of America’s first couple, walking down the tarmac alongside Netanyahu and his wife Sara, shows the swat as they pass security and the press.
Melania also appeared to avoid taking her husband’s hand when they walked off Air Force One in Rome Tuesday night. However, they reportedly held hands briefly while visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday.