JERUSALEM — President Trump has billed his visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican as a sort of triple pilgrimage to places deeply meaningful to adherents of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
But his first overseas trip as president also presents deep religious and political pitfalls.
Whether his time abroad will appease faith groups upset by Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban and his waffling over whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — among other thorny issues — remains to be seen.
He will meet with Pope Francis, who has made no secret of his disdain for Trump’s harsh rhetoric about immigrants and has reminded the president to remember the poor.
Trump’s trip reflects the president’s belief “that we all have to be united and we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation,” according to national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Many in the U.S. and abroad find that assertion hypocritical, given Trump’s combative style and history of remarks deemed offensive to Muslims, Latinos, blacks, Jews, women and the disabled.
But others see this trip as a chance for Trump — embroiled in Washington over his handling of a probe into alleged Russian ties to his presidential campaign — to prove that he can overcome his divisive reputation.
In Saudi Arabia, Trump’s first stop, the president will share “his hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam” and “the need to confront radical ideology” during a meeting with officials from dozens of Muslim-majority countries, McMaster said.
Trump will not be able to visit Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad and the world’s holiest Islamic city, because it is off-limits to non-Muslims.
During the Israeli leg of the trip, Trump will likely score points with the 80% of white evangelical…