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Pope Francis: private audience with Mr Erdogan lasted fifty minutes

(Foto Vatican Media/SIR)

The private meeting between Pope Francis and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lasted approximately fifty minutes. This was reported, in a briefing at the Vatican’s Press Office, by the “pool” of journalists accredited for the visit, which started at 9.35am at the San Damaso courtyard with the arrival of the president. Like all other heads of state received at the Vatican, the latter then walked through the Saint Ambrose room at 9.47am. Mr Erdogan, with a big smile, greeted all journalists with a “Good morning”. The Pope came out of Sala del Tronetto, the “room of the little throne”, at 9.52am, stopping halfway to shake hands with his guest, who at that very moment seemed more smiley than him, the pool of journalists reported. The mutual handshake was accompanied by a “good morning”, said by Erdogan in English and by Francis in Italian. “Thank you so much for your interest”, Mr Erdogan went on to say in Turkish, and the Pope replied: “Thank you for your visit”. Once in the Pope’s private library, the two of them, alone, sat at the writing desk, even if the next meeting was held with the two interpreters. The pool of journalists left the library at 9.54am, before the start of the private meeting which lasted until 10.45am. There was a relaxed atmosphere at the end of the meeting – the pool reported -, and the President and the Pope looked smiley, both during the exchange of gifts and the presentation of the delegations. Mr Erdogan presented the Pope with a hand-painted ceramic painting showing a panorama of Istanbul, whose main places – including the Bosporus, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque – were described by the Turkish president to the Holy Father, who replied: “Beautiful, beautiful!”. Mr Erdogan’s second gift to Pope Francis was a collection of four books: two written by Rumi, who is regarded as the greatest Persian mystic poet, and two biographies of the latter. “Mystical things”, the Pope commented. Pope Francis’ first gift to President Erdogan was a round medallion with an angel. “This is the angel of peace which strangles the devil of war”, Pope Francis explained, adding that: “This gift is the symbol of a world based on peace and justice”. The second gift for the Turkish president was an etching of St Peter’s Basilica, represented at the time when there were still two bell towers. Then, as he does with all heads of state, Pope Francis presented Mr Erdogan with a copy of his “Laudato Sì”, to which he added this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace and the medal of his Pontificate. When the delegations left, the Pope accompanied Mr Edogan and his wife to the exit door of the library. The Turkish first lady told the Pope: “Nice to meet you”, and the Pope asked: “Pray for me”. “We also expect a prayer from you”, Mr Erdogan replied. The Turkish delegation consisted of 16 people, including the Turkish President, his wife, and his daughter Ezra, 6 women – four with veil and two without – and five ministers. Among them was also Mr Erdogan’s son-in-law. After the private meeting with the Pope, the Turkish President and his wife met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and went on to visit St Peter’s Basilica – the Turkish Presidency Press Office reported. Mr Erdogan will meet with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the afternoon, but no press conferences will be held during his stay in Rome.

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