Ukraine, poverty, G7 discussed by Pope, German chancellor

Ukraine, poverty, G7 discussed by Pope, German chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to meet Pope Francis. Credit: Franco Origlia / Getty Images News / Getty Images.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to meet Pope Francis. Credit: Franco Origlia / Getty Images News / Getty Images.

.- The ongoing crisis in Ukraine was among the topics covered by Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in their Feb. 21 meeting at the Vatican.

Merkel helped to negotiate the latest cease-fire agreement between Ukrainian government forces and Pro-Russian separatists, hoping to ease a continuing conflict that has left more than 5,000 dead.

The Pope has repeatedly called for prayer and negotiations aimed at peace in the area.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, told CNA before the meeting that “it is natural that the Pope and Angela Merkel will talk about the Ukrainian situation. The principle that the Holy See will not interfere with the government agenda, and will not prompt solutions to crisis, will remain firm. But it is likely that both the Pope and the Secretary of State will express their concern and will encourage any effort to bring peace in the Ukraine.”

The upcoming G7 Summit, at which Germany will serve as president, was also a topic of discussion. The summit will gather representatives of major industrialized nations to discuss the global economy, as well as foreign policy, security and development issues. Russia was formerly part of the group – then known as the G8 – but has been suspended over the annexation of Crimea.

Pope Francis and Merkel met in the Library Hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. Both spoke with the help of an interpreter, Francis in Italian and Merkel in German.

The 40-minute audience was private, and while specifics about the discussion were not released, the Vatican did say that it was a “very cordial” meeting. Other topics covered in their conversation included religious freedom, the fight against poverty and human trafficking.

During the exchange of gifts following their private meeting, Merkel gave the Pope a white envelope containing a financial donation for refugee children fleeing conflict in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria, as well as a box of Bach CDs and a book.

For his part, Pope Francis gave a medal depicting St. Martin cutting off part of his cloak and giving it to a poor man, telling the chancellor, “I like to give this image to heads of state, because I think it’s their work to protect their poor.”

When Merkel replied to Francis saying that “we try to do our best,” the Pope told her “danke,” meaning thank you in German, and then gave the additional gift of his first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium.”

Merkel immediately noted that her copy of the exhortation had been translated into German. This, the Pope said in Italian, is “so you can read it,” to which the chancellor replied, “I will.”

According to Vatican sources, the chancellor herself requested today’s meeting with the Pope, in part to discuss themes surrounding the upcoming June 7-8 G7 Summit.

After arriving this morning from Via della Conciliazione, which is the main road leading up to St. Peter’s Square, Merkel and her entourage entered the Vatican through the square and under the Arch of the Bells, where the Pope himself enters and exits for his Wednesday general audiences.

Merkel was accompanied by a delegation of 14 people, including German ambassador to the Holy See Annette Schavan, German Undersecretary of State Steffen Seibert and foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen.

The meeting marked the third time Merkel has met with Francis since his election in 2013. A first encounter was exchanged in St. Peter’s Basilica March 19, 2013, for the occasion of the Pope’s official installation Mass as Bishop of Rome.

The two met again May 18 of that year, discussing Europe and solidarity in the context of the ongoing economic crisis.

Merkel came to Italy today specifically for her visit to the Vatican, to which was added only an encounter with the Sant’Egidio community in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere.

 

Tags: Pope Francis, Ukraine, Germany, G7, Angela Merkel