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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday gifted a specially-made silver candelabra and a book on India's climate initiatives to Pope Francis during their first meeting at Vatican City. 

Modi explained to the 84-year-old Pontiff that the book – The Climate Climb: India's strategy, actions and achievements – is on climate change, an issue close to the Pope.

In return, the pope presented the PM with a bronze plaque containing the inscription: “The desert will become a garden", his message for World Day of Peace and the document on Human Fraternity, signed on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

Modi, who is the first Indian prime minister to meet Francis since he became Pope in 2013, also tweeted pictures of him embracing the head of the Roman Catholic church.

"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 tweeted after the historic meeting with the 84-year-old Pontiff.

Pope Francis received PM Narendra Modi in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release.

During the 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, it said.

The prime mMinisterinister, who is in Italy to attend the G20 Summit, 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. Prime Minister Modi will also attend the Climate Summit to be held in Glasgow from Sunday.

His Holiness appreciated India’s assistance to countries in need during the pandemic, the release said.

Prime Minster extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure, it said.

This was the first meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the Pope in more than two decades. In June 2000, late Prime Minister 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, a release said.

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