United States First Lady Melania Trump is a practising Catholic, her spokeswoman has confirmed.

Mrs Trump’s visit to the Vatican sparked speculation last week. She placed flowers at the feet of a statue of the Virgin Mary and spent time praying at the Bambino Gesù hospital. Earlier she and her husband Donald Trump had met Pope Francis for the first time. She gave the Pope rosary beads for him to bless.

It is unclear when Melania Trump, who was raised in a communist-supporting family in Slovenia, became a Catholic. She married Donald Trump, a lifelong Presbyterian, in 2005 at an Episcopal church in Palm Beach, Florida.

Despite her husband being inaugurated US president in January, she is not due to move into the White House until later in the summer. When she does, she will be the first Catholic to live there since President John F Kennedy and his wife Jackie in the early 1960s.

Pope Francis and President Trump spent 30 minutes speaking privately in the library of the Apostolic Palace. As the president left, he told the Pope: “I won’t forget what you said.”

Pope Francis gave Trump a split medallion held together by an olive tree, which his interpreter told Trump was “a symbol of peace”.

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