On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump met with Pope Francis at the Vatican for the first time since taking office. It was a highly-anticipated meeting between the two ideologically-opposed leaders who have clashed in the past. But what started out as a somber visited ended in jokes: Before parting, Pope Francis reportedly asked Melania what she feeds Trump, leading the two to share a brief, lighthearted moment.
Here's how it went down: According to the New York Daily News, the pontiff asked the first lady through the translator if she gives Trump potica to eat — a reference to a traditional Slovenian nut-filled pastry. Melania, born and raised in Slovenia, let out a laugh in response and repeated "potica" back to Pope Francis, the Daily News reported.
The exchange seemed to be a small bonding moment over Melania's heritage. According to the Daily News, the pontiff had eaten some potica when Miro Cerar, the prime minister of Slovenia, visited the Vatican two years ago. (There was some mix-up over the food in question, though; according to the Guardian, initial reports from the Vatican claimed Pope Francis asked about pizza, the food that fuels New Yorkers.)
That moment, though, could be interpreted in different ways. For people like me, Pope Francis' joke feels like fat-shaming because it comes across as a comment on Trump's size. The president stands at more than 6 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, according to his appearance on an episode of The Dr. Oz Show in September. For all intents and purposes, Trump would be considered fat. That's not good or bad — just a fact, as activist, writer and filmmaker Lindsey Averill had pointed out in an editorial for CNN.
Fat people like me have heard variations of the pope's question throughout our lives. It's a loaded comment that plays on tired tropes about fat bodies — that if you're fat, you must eat junk food and not exercise. It doesn't matter that research has proven weight is not only contingent upon the calories you consume. As Harvard Medical School noted, genes, abilities, environment, and stress have a lot to do with weight gain and weight loss. But questions about what a person eats or what they are fed perpetuates harmful stereotypes that put the lives of fat bodies at risk, even if the comment is not intended that way.
Another interpretation could be that Pope Francis was commenting on how Trump can be hot-headed. After all, according to How Stuff Works, certain foods can have an effect on a person's temper (I don't know if potica would fall under the category, though). And, as Trump has shown time and time again, he has one hell of a short temper and sour attitude.
But no matter what the pope meant by the question, the moment between himself and Melania at least shows that the Holy See could rise above the tension.