Updated on: Sunday, October 31, 2021, 08:00 AM IST

PM Modi meets Pope Francis at Vatican, invites him to visit India

Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he had a "very warm meeting" with Pope Francis and discussed a wide range of issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenge posed by climate change, and invited the Pontiff to visit India at an early date. The last Papal visit was that of Pope John Paul II in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.

Modi, who is the first Indian Prime Minister to meet Francis since he became Pope in 2013, also tweeted pictures of them embracing each other.

Pope Francis received PM Modi in a private audience 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, late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had 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 the second largest Catholic population in Asia.

The Prime Minister, 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. Prime Minister Modi will also attend the Climate Summit to be held in Glasgow from Sunday.

His Holiness appreciated India's assistance to countries in need during the pandemic, the MEA release said. The meeting, which was scheduled only for 20 minutes, went on for an hour.

"During a brief conversation, the cordial relations between the Holy See and India were discussed," the Vatican Press Office said in a brief statement on the meeting.

At the Vatican, Modi was accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Ahead of the historic meeting, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday said that the Vatican has not set an agenda for the meeting. "I believe, tradition is not to have an agenda when you discuss issues with His Holiness. And I think we would respect that," he had said.

"I am sure the issues would cover a range of areas of interest in terms of the general global perspectives and issues that are important to all of us, COVID-19, health issues, how we can work together to maintain peace and tranquility and this is something that, I think would be the general trend in the discussions," he had added.

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Published on: Saturday, October 30, 2021, 10:49 PM IST