His Holiness Pope Francis received Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Saturday, 30 October 2021. After holding talks with the Pope, Modi was received by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
This was the first meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the Pope in more than two decades. In June 2000, Late Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had last 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.
During today’s meeting, the two leaders discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences for people across the world. They also discussed the challenge posed by climate change. Prime Minister 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. His Holiness appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic.
Prime Minister extended an invitation to His Holiness Pope Francis to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure.
“During a brief conversation, the cordial relations between the Holy See and India were discussed,” said a brief note by the Holy See Press office soon after the visit.
Modi’s Vatican visit lasted nearly an hour. The Indian Prime Minister gifted the Pope a silver candlestick and a book on the commitment to the environment. 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.
The prime minister leads the government that is headed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), formed in 1980. In office since 2014 and reconfirmed after winning the 2019 elections within the “National Democratic Alliance” coalition, this is Modi’s first visit to the Vatican.
In fact, in September 2016, on the occasion of the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the official Indian delegation led by the late former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, was received by Pope Francis.
Modi is in Rome for the G20 Heads of State and Government Summit, October 30-31, before he flies to Glasgow, Scotland, for the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), October 31 to November 12.
The last time that an Indian Prime Minister and a Pontiff met in the Vatican was more than 20 years ago. Late Pope John Paul II, now a Saint, had received in audience late former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also a BJP member, on June 26, 2000.