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Pope Francis accepts PM Modi's invitation to visit India: Foreign Ministry

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Pope Francis hug on the occasion of their private audience at the Vatican, Saturday (AP)Premium
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Pope Francis hug on the occasion of their private audience at the Vatican, Saturday (AP)

  • The last pope to visit India was John Paul II, who went to New Delhi in 1999 to issue a papal document on the Church in Asia
  • The last Indian prime minister to meet a pope was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who met John Paul II at the Vatican in 2000

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Pope Francis has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit India, news agency Reuters reported on Saturday. This was a turnaround event following the failure of negotiations for a papal trip to India back in 2017.

The Indian Foreign Ministry said the invitation was for the pope "to visit India at an early date, which was accepted with pleasure", the report reads.

In 2016, the Pope had expressed that he was "almost sure" of visiting India the following year along with Bangladesh. But Indian Catholic Church leaders failed to convince the prime minister to invite him.

However, as the 2017 visit fell through, Church officials said the Indian government had cited scheduling problems for the prime minister. Francis visited Myanmar and Bangladesh instead.

The last pope to visit India was John Paul II, who went to New Delhi in 1999 to issue a papal document on the Church in Asia. The last Indian prime minister to meet a pope was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who met John Paul II at the Vatican in 2000.

Prime Minster Modi visits the Pope

Prime Minister Modi is on a two-day visit to Rome for the G20 Summit at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. As a part of the trip, the prime minister also met the Pope today at the Vatican. 

Modi was accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar at the meeting which was scheduled for 20 minutes but went on for an hour, a person familiar with the details of the meeting said.

The person further stated that Modi and the Pope discussed a wide range of issues, aimed at making the planet better, such as fighting climate change and removing poverty. 

After meeting the Pope today, the Prime Minister took to Twitter to say, “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."

A Vatican statement gave no details of the meeting between Francis and Modi, the first between a pope and an Indian prime minister in more than two decades. Modi is in Rome to attend the G20 summit of the world's richest countries.

(With inputs from agencies)

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