Pope presents Bible
to Narendra Modi as
historic meeting gift


By Pragya Kaushika

ROME (Italy): Pope Francis on Saturday expressed happiness at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit India and said that it was the “greatest gift” that the Indian leader could give him.
Sharing details of the meeting between PM Modi and the Pope, foreign secretary Harsh V Shringla said that the meeting was characterised by warmth and many issues were discussed between the two. PM Modi, who is in Rome for G20 Summit, met Pope Francis earlier in the day. It was the first- meeting between PM Modi and Pope Francis.
“The significance of the visit can be gauged from the fact that the last papal visit to India was in 1999 when Pope John Paul II visited India. The Pope has graciously accepted the invitation of PM Modi. And in his own words and I am paraphrasing it, he said you have given me the greatest gift. I am looking forward to visiting India,” Shringla said,” when asked about the details of the meeting.

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis offering gift to Indian Prime Minister Narinder Modi.

The Foreign Secretary said the Prime Minister urged the Pope to visit India at the earliest as per his convenience. “Actual details will be worked out through diplomatic channels,” he added.
He said the two leaders discussed several issues during the “personal” meeting “They spoke on a number of issues that are topical like dealing with COVID pandemic and what were best practices adopted by India. Other issues like climate change, environment, and unique steps taken by us to help people in distress all over the world whether it was strategic evacuation in Yemen or Iraq or Afghanistan were touched upon,” he said.
Shringla said the Pope took a lot of time to explain facts about the Vatican to the PM and artefacts and memorabilia in the Vatican.

Narendra Modi and Pope Francis discussed a wide range of global issues, including the Covid-19 crisis, fighting climate change and alleviating poverty, during their maiden meeting at the Vatican City on Saturday.

VATICAN CITY: Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated by Pope Francis, in Vatican City on Saturday. (ANI Photo)

In a tweet, Modi described the meeting as “warm” and said he had invited the Pope to visit India.

The visit to the Vatican was scheduled to last only 20 minutes but went on for an hour, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. Modi and the Pope discussed a range of issues “aimed at making the planet better”, such as climate change and poverty, the people said.

Modi was the first Indian prime minister to meet Pope Francis since he became head of the Catholic Church in 2013. It was also the first meeting between an Indian prime minister and a pope since June 2000, when late

prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the Vatican and met Pope John Paul II. Pope also made the last papal visit to India in 1999, when Vajpayee was the prime minister.

Modi was accompanied to the Vatican by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Modi also met Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state of the Vatican City, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican secretary for relations with states.

VATICAN CITY: Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding the Bible to his forehead as a tribute.

“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 said in his tweet.

The external affairs ministry said the Pope granted Modi a private audience at the Apostolic Palace, and the two leaders discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences for people around the world.

They also discussed the challenge posed by climate change, and Modi briefed the Pope about India’s initiatives to combat the phenomenon and the country’s success in administering one billion Covid-19 vaccination doses. The Pope appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic, the ministry said.