As part of President Donald Trump’s first swing through Rome and the Vatican, first daughter Ivanka Trump will meet with the Community of Sant’Egidio to discuss efforts to combat human trafficking, and will also participate in the public portion of her father’s meeting with Pope Francis on May 24.
The Community of Sant’ Egidio is one of the “new movements” in the Catholic Church that have enjoyed their greatest growth in the period following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which emphasized the lay role in Catholicism.
Founded in 1968 by Italian layman Andrea Riccardi, a historian and former minister in the Italian government, Sant’Egidio emphasizes service to the poor, conflict resolution, and ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue. It’s also long been involved in campaigns against human trafficking, often working with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
The community is based in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere and is named for the church there in which it held its initial meetings, which is called “St. Giles” in English.
During the session with Sant’Egidio, Ivanka Trump is expected to meet several female victims of human trafficking and to discuss ways in which the U.S. government and the Church may be able to collaborate.
“Ivanka’s meetings in Rome are part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to combating human trafficking both domestically and abroad,” a White House official said ahead of the trip.
Sant’Egidio is a favorite of Pope Francis, who has repeatedly praised the group. At one of his first Angelus addresses on Sunday from the window of the papal apartment, Francis spotted a Sant’Egidio banner in the crowd and said, “Those people from Sant’Egidio are great!”
In the past, however, there has been a degree of tension between the Vatican’s official diplomatic apparatus in the Secretariat of State and Sant’Egidio, which sometimes has been seen as operating a sort of parallel Catholic diplomacy.
Florida Congressman Francis Rooney, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See during the second term of President George W. Bush, said that when he organized a meeting for Bush with Sant’Egidio in 2007, he ran into some Vatican flak.
“There were some members of the Holy See’s foreign policy establishment that feel a rivalry with Sant’ Egidio and didn’t like it,” Rooney said in a recent interview for “The Crux of the Matter,” which airs Mondays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129.
“We had to navigate through that a little bit,” Rooney said.
“They’ve been a very close partner of our embassy for many years, so when the president was coming over, I had the chance to set up a couple of appointments for him, and one I picked was Sant’Egidio,” he said. “But Sant’Egidio’s conflict resolution work has raised the hackles, a time or two, of some of the members of the Holy See’s Secretariat of State.”
Trump’s meeting with the pope, and the first daughter’s meeting with Sant’Egidio, comes just days after the White House announced that Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will be nominated as the next U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.
However, Gingrich will not be part of the U.S. delegation for this trip, as she still has to be confirmed by the Senate, and a timetable for her confirmation process has not yet been established.
Ivanka Trump is taking part in all of Trump’s nine-day, first overseas trip.
In Saudi Arabia, she’s taking part in a roundtable discussion with Saudi women about women’s economic issues. According to an administration official, she wanted to hear about the challenges women in the country face and the progress they have made. In Israel, she’s scheduled to join her father at the fabled Western Wall.
Ivanka Trump stepped away from running her clothing brand and from an executive role at the Trump Organization before she joined her father’s administration as an unpaid adviser.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.