After she met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday, first lady Melania Trump confirmed a little-known fact about her faith: She is Catholic. And she described the visit with the leader of the global Catholic Church as ‘‘one I’ll never forget.’’
While President Donald Trump referenced his Presbyterian identity during the campaign, her faith did not come up. He and the first lady were married in 2005 in an Episcopal church in Palm Beach, Florida, where their son Barron Trump was later baptized.
The church’s rector performed a traditional Episcopal wedding service, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. ‘‘The bride walked down the aisle carrying only an ancient rosary, not to Lohengrin or Wagner, but to a vocalist singing Ave Maria in an exquisite soprano voice,’’ the local newspaper reported.
Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed in an email that Melania Trump identifies as Catholic, but Grisham did not respond to questions about whether the first lady attends Mass regularly at a specific parish and if the first family are current members of a particular church. The first lady, who became a U.S. citizen in 2006, grew up in what is today known as Slovenia, which has been heavily influenced by Catholicism.
During their visit to the Vatican on Wednesday, the pope blessed the first lady’s rosary beads and the two had a lighthearted conversation about what she feeds her husband. She spent time in front of a statue of the Madonna at the Vatican’s children’s hospital and laid flowers at its feet.
She prayed in the chapel of the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital during her visit and tweeted about a boy who will receive a heart transplant by including the hashtags #Blessings and #Faith.
‘‘A little boy who I visited today & had been waiting for a heart transplant will be receiving one! #Blessings #Faith’’
She noted her visit in Israel to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site that commemorates Jesus’s death and tomb.
‘‘Today’s visits to The Church of the Holy Sepulchre & Western Wall w my husband @POTUS were very meaningful for me. Blessings to all.’’
The first lady opened the president’s February rally in Florida by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Her fashion choices have invoked comparisons to former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was famously Catholic during a time when many Americans were suspicious of Catholics because they were worried that the pope would influence U.S. politics. Like first ladies before her, Melania Trump wore a black dress and veil to meet the pope.
Melania and Barron Trump have been living in Manhattan while he finishes his school year on the Upper West Side. After they move to the White House this summer, he will attend St. Andrew’s Episcopal, a prep school in Potomac, Maryland, where just 16 percent of its students are Episcopalian. Eighteen percent are Roman Catholic, 23 percent are other Christian denominations and 10 percent are Jewish.
During the Vatican visit, President Trump was also accompanied by his daughter Ivanka Trump, who converted to Orthodox Judaism. Ivanka Trump attended Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the country, before finishing her degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Her brother Eric Trump graduated from Georgetown. At the Vatican, the Trumps were not accompanied by his spokesman Sean Spicer or senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, both of whom are Catholic.
Exit polls showed Catholics voted for Trump 52 to 45 percent in the 2016 election, and a recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that white Catholics and white evangelicals who attend religious services regularly have a higher approval rating of Trump than those who don’t attend services regularly.
There are about 51 million Catholic adults in the country, according to Pew, and they make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population.