Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he had a “very intimate meeting” with Pope Francis and discussed a wide range of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenge posed by climate change, with the head of the Roman Catholic Church and also invited the Pope to visit India at an early date. .

Modi, who is the first Indian prime minister to meet Francis since he became pope in 2013, also tweeted pictures of him embracing Pope Francis.

Pope Francis meets Indian Prime Minister Modi at the Vatican. October 30, 2021. – Reuters

“It was a very intimate meeting with Pope Francis. I had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him and also invited him to visit India,” Modi tweeted after the historic meeting.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release that Pope Francis received Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a private meeting at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

This was the first meeting between an Indian prime minister and the Pope in more than two decades. In June 2000, the late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee last visited the Vatican and met the then Pope, His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

The statement said that India and the Holy See have friendly relations dating back to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948. India is home to the second largest number of Catholics in Asia.

Pope Francis meets Indian Prime Minister Modi at the Vatican. October 30, 2021. – Reuters

During the meeting, the two leaders discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences for people around the world. She added that they also discussed the challenge of climate change.

The Prime Minister, who is in Italy for the G20 summit, briefed the Pope on the ambitious initiatives taken by India in combating climate change and India’s success in managing one billion doses of vaccination against COVID-19. Prime Minister Modi will also attend the Climate Summit to be held in Glasgow from Sunday.

The statement said His Holiness expressed his appreciation for India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic.

Extends invitation to visit India

The Prime Minister extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit India at an early date, which was gladly accepted.

The last papal visit occurred in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister, and Pope John Paul II attended. Sources said that during Modi’s tenure as prime minister, the Pope received an invitation to visit India.

Pope Francis meets Indian Prime Minister Modi at the Vatican. October 30, 2021. – Reuters

They said the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Pope Francis, which was scheduled for only 20 minutes, lasted for an hour.

COVID, Climate Change Discussion

The sources said they discussed a wide range of issues to improve the planet by combating climate change and eradicating poverty.

“During a short conversation, friendly relations between the Holy See and India were discussed,” the Vatican press office said in a brief statement about the meeting between the Pope and Prime Minister Modi.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Modi received, at the State Secretariat, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Security Relations with States.

Modi was accompanied at the Vatican by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

Ahead of the historic meeting, Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Friday that the Vatican had not set the agenda for the meeting. “I believe that tradition should not have an agenda when you discuss issues with His Holiness. I think we will respect that,” he said.

Pope Francis meets Indian Prime Minister Modi at the Vatican. October 30, 2021. – Reuters

“I am sure the issues will cover a range of areas of interest in terms of general worldviews and issues that concern us all, Covid-19, health issues, and how we can work together to maintain peace and calm and that is something that I think will be the general direction in the discussions.”

Gift exchange

Pope Francis meets Indian Prime Minister Modi at the Vatican. October 30, 2021. – Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted a custom-made silver candlestick and a book on India’s climate initiatives to Pope Francis on Saturday as they held their first meeting here.

Modi explained to the 84-year-old pope that the menorah is custom made, and that the book talks about climate change, a topic close to the pope.

According to Vatican News, the Prime Minister gifted the head of the Roman Catholic Church a custom-made silver candlestick and a book titled “Climate Climbing: India’s Strategy, Actions and Achievements” during their hour-long meeting.

The Pope responded with a bronze plaque with the inscription “The desert will become a garden”, volumes of papal documents, his message for the World Day of Peace and the Document on Human Fraternity, signed by the Pope on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi. It was said by the Imam of Al-Azhar.

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