Saturday 30 October 2021 10:15 PM UTC
Vatican City Oct 31: Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit, in a turnaround in relations with the Vatican following the failure of negotiations for a papal trip to the country in 2017.
There are about 20 million Roman Catholics in India, about 1.5 per cent of the population of 1.3 billion.
In 2016, Pope Francis said he was “almost sure” of visiting India the following year along with Bangladesh. But Indian Catholic Church leaders failed to convince PM Modi to invite him.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 30, 2021
The last pope to visit India was John Paul II, who went to New Delhi in 1999 to issue a papal document on the Church in Asia.
“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,” PM Modi said on Twitter on Saturday.
The Foreign Ministry said the invitation was for the pope “to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure”.
A Vatican statement gave no details of the meeting between Francis and PM Modi, the first between a pope and an Indian prime minister in more than two decades. PM Modi is in Rome to attend the G20 summit of the world’s richest countries.
At the time the 2017 visit fell through, Church officials said the Indian government had cited scheduling problems for the prime minister. Francis visited Myanmar and Bangladesh instead.
Modi gifted a specially-made silver candelabra and a book on India’s climate initiatives to Pope Francis on Saturday as they held their first one-to-one meeting.
PM Modi explained to the 84-year-old Pontiff that the candelabra was specially made and the book is on climate change, an issue close to the Pope.
According to the Vatican News, the Prime Minister gifted the head of the Roman Catholic church 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 of 2019 in Abu Dhabi by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, it said.
PM Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to meet Francis since he became Pope in 2013.
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.
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