Pope Francis met the President of Iran at the Vatican today urging the Middle Eastern leader to find peaceful solutions for the Middle East and work with him to combat terrorism.
Francis and President Hassan Rouhani had a private meeting that lasted around 40 minutes at the end of which the Pope said he “hoped for peace” and asked the president to “pray for him.”
"During the discussions, common spiritual values emerged and reference was made to the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favour the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom," a Vatican spokesman said.
"The important role that Iran plays to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking was also discussed," he added.
Following his meeting with the Pope, Rouhani, who is on a state visit to Italy, saw the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the secretary for relations with states.
As is tradition, an exchange of gifts took place with the President Rouhani giving a rug made in the city of Qom, Iran and the Pope handing a medal of St Martin of Tours, the former bishop who famously cut his cloak in two to give the other half to a beggar. The latter, Francis said, was a sign of “brotherhood”.
Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran are on a good footing with the Vatican having an embassy in the country since 1954.
President Rouhani’s visit was the first of its kind since 1999 when Pope John Paul II received Mohammed Khatami.