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PM Modi invites Pope Francis to visit India in one-on-one meeting at Vatican City

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Pope Francis to India after a one-on-one meeting in Vatican City on Saturday.

"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 tweeted.

The Prime Minister has invited Pope Francis to visit India soon, which was accepted with pleasure, a press release by the Ministry of External Affairs said.

His Holiness Pope Francis received Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Saturday. During today’s meeting, the two discussed the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences for people across the world. They also discussed the challenge posed by climate change.

The 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, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.

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. 

Also read:  Explained: PM Modi's momentous visit to the Vatican and his meeting with Pope Francis today

The Prime Minister also met the Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar accompanied PM Modi to meet Pope Francis.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council has issued a statement saying the Catholic Church of Kerala is waiting eagerly for the visit of Pope Francis to India and appreciates PM Modi for his "historical invitation".

The last Papal Visit happened in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and Pope John Paul II came to India.

PM Modi is on a two-day visit to Rome for the G20 Summit at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.