New Delhi/Vatican, Oct 30 : Pope Francis received Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Saturday, the first such meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the head of the Catholic Church in more than two decades.
“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 soon after the meeting with the Pope.
The Prime Minister’s meeting with the Pope came amid his a three-day trip to Italy to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit. Several other world leaders who too have reached Italy for the Summit have been meeting the Pope one after another since Friday.
“The meeting was scheduled for 20-30 minutes (but) went on for an hour,” an official said.
Modi was accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister, Dr S. Jaishankar.
This was the first meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the Pope in more than two decades after 1999 when then Prime Minister, late Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the Vatican and met the then Pope, John Paul II.
Modi becomes the fifth Indian Prime Minister to meet the Pope at the Vatican after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, I.K. Gujral, and Vajpayee.
“During today’s 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 Prime Minister 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. His Holiness appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic,” a release from the Ministry of External Affairs said.
The Prime Minister also extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure, it added.
Modi also met Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
India, which is home to the second-largest Catholic population in Asia, and the Holy See have friendly relations dating back to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1948.