Trump calls Pope Francis to offer condolences for Notre Dame fire, offers 'our great experts'

John Fritze

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump called Pope Francis to offer his condolences Wednesday for the Notre Dame fire and said the U.S. would offer "our great experts on renovation and construction" to help France rebuild the iconic cathedral.

"Just had a wonderful conversation with @Pontifex Francis," Trump posted on Twitter, referring to Francis' Twitter account, "offering condolences from the People of the United States for the horrible and destructive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral."

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron a day earlier to discuss the blaze that roared 850-year-old house of worship on Monday.   

Donations to help rebuild Notre Dame neared the $1 billion mark Wednesday as recovery efforts ramped up. Engineers and historians are expected to put up a temporary roof to protect the cathedral from the elements, assess damage and salvage materials before beginning repairs that may take decades. 

Trump has had a complicated relationship with Francis. During the 2016 election, the Pope criticized tough immigration policies embraced by both Trump and several European leaders. Trump responded with a fiery post on Facebook suggesting that "if and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President."

More: As President Trump meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, a timeline of their history

The two appeared to put aside their differences during a meeting in 2017, Trump's first visit with the Pope as president.  

"I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue peace in our world," Trump tweeted after their encounter. 

President Donald Trump says that he is "strongly looking at" the idea of transporting migrants to so-called sanctuary cities that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities. (April 12)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump calls Pope Francis to offer condolences for Notre Dame fire, offers 'our great experts'