Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday briefed Pope Francis about the ambitious initiatives taken by India for combating climate change as well as its success in administering one billion Covid-19 vaccination doses during their meeting at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
A PMO release said that 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.
Is PM Modi the first Indian PM to meet Pope in the Vatican?
The PMO release said it was the first meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the Pope in more than two decades. However, many netizens wondered whether Prime Minister Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to meet Pope. Although Prime Minister Modi is the first Indian PM to meet Pope Francis, earlier, Indian PMs have met the Pope during their tenure as PM.
In June 2000, late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had last visited the Vatican and met the then Pope John Paul II. In 1999 as Pope John Paul II visited India when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
Before Vajpayee, Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and I K Gujralhad met the then Popes in the Vatican. In July 1955, Nehru had visited Pope Pius XII. Indira Gandhi met Pope John Paul II in 1981 and Prime Ministers IK Gujral met him in 1997.
Here's what Holy See Press Office said about the meeting:
Holy See Press Office said in a statement that the cordial relations between the Vatican and India were discussed.
"Pope Francis received in audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Narendra Modi. During a brief conversation, the cordial relations between the Holy See and India were discussed," the statement said.
PM Modi also extended an invitation to Pope to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure, the release added.
The Prime Minister has on various occasions including his 'Mann ki Baat monthly radio programme spoken of India's rich and varied past and spoken about "gems of human beings" born in the country and those who dedicated their lives in the service of people.
During his Mann Ki Baat programme in July this year, PM Modi shared an interesting and emotional story emphasising that India had handed over the Holy Relic or icon of Saint Queen Ketevan to the Government of Georgia and the people there.
PM Modi had said that the words that were said in praise of India in this ceremony are indeed very memorable. "This single ceremony has not only strengthened the relations between the two nations but as well as between Goa and Georgia. This is because these holy relics of Saint Queen Ketevan were found in 2005 from Saint Augustine Church in Goa," he had said.
"Friends, the question arising in your mind must be...what is this matter all about and when and how did this happen? Actually, this is an incident about four to five hundred years ago. Queen Ketevan was the daughter of the royal family of Georgia. In 1624 after ten years of imprisonment she was martyred. According to an ancient Portuguese document, the mortal remains of Saint Queen Ketevan were kept in the Saint Augustine Convent of Old Goa. But, for a long time, it was believed that her remains buried in Goa were lost in the earthquake of 1930," he had added.
The Prime Minister had said that tireless efforts by the Indian government and Georgia's historians, researchers, archaeologists and the Georgian Church, the relics were successfully discovered in 2005.
The Prime Minister mentioned Sister Mariam Thresia in his Mann ki Baat programme in September 2019. She was honoured in Vatican City and Pope Francis had declared her a saint.
"Our Mother India, our country is a bountiful land! Many gems of human beings took birth here. India has not only been the birthplace of such extraordinary people, but also the land of their karma. And these are the people who have spent themselves in service of others. One such illustrious Indian is being honoured in Vatican City on 13th October. It is a matter of pride for every Indian that, on the coming 13th October, His Holiness Pope Francis will declare Sister MariamThresia a saint," he had said.
"Sister Mariam Thresia, in her short lifespan of 50 years, worked for the good of humanity becoming a noble example for the entire world. Whatever task Sister Mariam Thresia undertook and accomplished, she did so with utmost dedication and devotion. She rendered service in the fields of education and social service. She had built many schools, hostels and orphanages, and throughout her life, remained devoted to this cause," the Prime Minister had added.
The Prime Minister paid special homage to Jesus Christ on December 31, 2017, and said that like other parts of the world, people in India too celebrated Christmas with warmth and cheer.
"The pious occasion of Christmas reminds us of the great teachings of Jesus Christ who laid much emphasis on the spirit of service, 'Sewa bhaav'. The essence of the spirit of service can be felt in the Bible too," he had said.
In a special tribute to Jesus Christ on Christmas in December 2016, the Prime Minister said it was a day to "give importance in our lives to service, sacrifice and compassion".
"The poor do not need our favours but our acceptance with affection." The Prime Minister had referred to the sainthood of Mother Teresa in Mann ki Baat in August 2016 and noted that though she was born in Albania and her mother tongue was not English, yet she transformed her life and did everything to be able to serve the poor.
"When Mother Teresa, who served the poor in India all through her life, is accorded Sainthood, it is quite natural for we Indians to feel proud. The Indian government will send an official delegation under the leadership of our External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to represent 125 crore Indians at the canonization ceremony to be held on September 4," he had said.
The government had worked proactively for the rescue of 46 Indians from war-torn Iraq in 2014.
In 2015, Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who returned to India eight months after his abduction in Afghanistan, gave the credit of his return to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that it was because of him that he was here.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who spent 18 months in the captivity of the Islamic State, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2017 shortly after his return to India.
The Prime Minister had also interacted with cardinals in January this year.
In 2019, the Prime Minister began his Sri Lanka visit by paying his respects at one of the sites of the horrific Easter Sunday attacks, St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade.
(With inputs from agencies)
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