Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met Pope Francis at the Vatican, the first meeting between an Indian PM and the Pope in more than two decades. The Prime Minister also invited the head of the Catholic church to visit India at the earliest convenient date.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 20 minutes, went on for nearly an hour as the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, including the two most pressing challenges — the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. The pontiff appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
While the MEA said Modi’s invitation “was accepted with pleasure,” the Vatican’s official press release did not mention it. “The cordial relations between the Holy See and India were discussed,” said a brief note by the Holy See Press office soon after the visit.
If the papal visit happens, it will mark a turnaround in India’s relations with the Vatican. Pope Francis had hoped to visit India in 2017 but the plan fell through owing to what was described later as “procedural and scheduling problems”. The Pope finally confined his visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar. The last Pope to visit India was John Paul II in 1999.
During Saturday‘s meeting, Modi gave Francis a silver candelabra and a book titled “The Climate Climb: India’s strategy, actions and achievements.” The Pope reciprocated with a collection of his main teaching documents and a bronze medallion featuring a tree with the inscription “The desert will become a garden”.
“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,” the Prime Minister tweeted after meeting the 84-year-old pontiff, attaching photographs of him hugging Francis.
“Thank you very much for your visit,” Francis said to Modi in English, holding his hands, adding: “I am happy.” The last time an Indian prime minister visited the Vatican was in June 2000, when late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met the then Pope, His Holiness John Paul II.
Modi meets world leaders at G20 summit
PM Narendra Modi on Saturday interacted with world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, on the sidelines of the G20 summit, exchanging pleasantries and showcasing a spirit of camaraderie. In a series of photos tweeted by the PMO India, Prime Minister Modi is seen meeting Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “On the sidelines of the @g20org Rome summit, PM @narendramodi interacts with various leaders,” the PMO said in the tweet.