Melania Trump First Catholic in White House in Decades

Pope Francis poses with President Donald Trump (C) his wife Melania (R), Jared Kushner (L) and Ivanka Trump during a private audience at the Vatican, May 24, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS

Melania Trump has largely stayed out of the spotlight since her husband was elected to one of the world's most powerful posts in November. But after a moving visit with Pope Francis this week, her spokeswoman confirmed that she is a practicing Catholic, shedding new light on the private life and politics of the nation's first lady.

The previously unknown revelation was confirmed by spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham to Wednesday, hours after Melania Trump meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where he blessed a rosary for her and made fun of her husband's penchant for junk food. After leaving the Vatican Wednesday, the first lady tweeted with the hashtags #Blessings and #Faith.

The Trump family has a complex relationship with religion. Donald and Melania Trump do not attend church regularly, but he has said he is a Christian. His faith has been questioned by critics who argue his policies, such as eliminating health insurance for the poor, do not represent the Bible's views on charity. Trump, who has been divorced twice and is known for using foul language, also faced controversy last year for not being able to cite his favorite Bible verse. "The Bible means a lot to me, but I don't want to get into specifics," he countered at the time. 

More recently, Melania Trump made headlines in February when she opened a campaign rally in Florida for her husband with The Lord's Prayer and a promise to work to raise awareness for women and children's issues across the world. Critics accused Melania Trump of pandering to Christians, but the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham and a well-known evangelist, praised the first lady's devotion after the rally.

“When Melania did this, I thought to myself, ‘This is the first time in American history, its politics, as far as I know, that the first lady stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer before she introduced her husband,’” Graham told Sean Hannity on his Fox News TV show at the time. “I thought it was tremendous.”

Donald Trump's daughter from his first marriage, Ivanka Trump, traveled with her father and stepmother Monday to visit Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of the world's holiest sites. Ivanka Trump appeared to cry as she placed her hand on the women's area of the site.

"I am grateful to have experienced a deeply meaningful visit to the holiest site of my faith and to leave a private note of prayer," she posted on social media shortly after the visit.

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are practicing Modern Orthodox Jews. She converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 wedding. Her father wore a black kippah, a skull cap traditionally worn by Jews, during his visit to the Western Wall.

Melania Trump is expected to make her long-awaited move to the White House later this year. She is currently living in the family's New York City penthouse with her son, Barron, while he finishes out the school year. She will be the first Catholic to live in the White House since John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy called the official residence of the president home in 1963. 

Melania Trump's Catholic faith could solidify her husband's support with far-right Christians. Republican candidates generally perform well among white born-again, evangelical Christians and white Catholics, groups that all backed Donald Trump in November. Hispanic Catholics and Jews, meanwhile, tend to vote for Democratic candidates, according to a Pew Research Center analysis published shortly after the election. 

Melania Trump was born in Slovenia, where more than 70 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.