• Monday, November 28, 2022

EUROPE

Modi meets Pope Francis, invites him to India

Pope Francis meets India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Vatican on October 30, 2021. (Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he had a “very warm meeting” with Pope Francis and discussed a wide range of issues and also invited him 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 the head of the Roman Catholic church.

“Had a very warm 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 with the 84-year-old pontiff.

Pope Francis received Modi in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, the ministry of external affairs said in a press release.

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

India and The Holy See have friendly relations dating back to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948.

India is home to nearly 18 million Catholics, the second-largest Catholic population in Asia.

During the meeting, the two leaders discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences for people across the world. They also discussed the challenge posed by climate change, the release said.

Modi, who is in Italy to attend the G20 Summit, briefed the Pope about the ambitious initiatives taken by India in combating climate change as well as India’s success in administering one billion Covid-19 vaccination doses. The prime minister will also attend the Climate Summit to be held in Glasgow from Sunday (31).

His Holiness appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic, the release said.

Modi extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure, it said.

The meeting between Modi and the Pope that was scheduled only for 20 minutes went on for an hour, sources said.

They discussed a wide range of issues aimed at making the planet better by fighting climate change and removing poverty, the sources said.

At the Vatican, Modi was accompanied by national security advisor Ajit Doval and external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

According to the Vatican News, Modi gifted the Pope a specially-made silver candelabra and a book, ‘The Climate Climb: India’s strategy, actions and achievements’ during their meeting which lasted for an hour.

The Pope reciprocated with a bronze plaque with the inscription ‘The desert will become a garden’, volumes of papal documents, his message for World Day of Peace and the document on Human Fraternity, signed on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, it said.

(PTI)

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