By Hannah Brockhaus
Saturday, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the Vatican, agreeing on the need to dedicate special attention to the responsibility of the international community in addressing issues of poverty and hunger.
According to a brief June 17 Vatican communique, the “cordial discussions” also included a conversation on the upcoming G20 meeting in Hamburg, as well as concern for the global threats of terrorism and climate change.
The fourth formal meeting of the leaders, the exchange was friendly, the communique stating that the “good relations and fruitful collaboration between the Holy See and Germany were evoked.”
In a press conference following the audience, Merkel said that their conversation included a discussion of their unified desire that the world tear down walls and fight for international treaties, with a special emphasis on the plight in Africa.
Speaking of international treaties, in the press conference Merkel also expressed her disappointment at the United States’ departure from the Paris climate agreement.
In the meeting, Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the death of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died on Friday. In a message to Merkel, the Pope said that he learned of the news of his death “with emotion.”
“I would like to express my condolences to your family members and to you and to all the German people who empathize with the ‘Chancellor of the Unity,’” he said. “Chancellor Kohl, who is a great and trusted European man, has worked with foresight and dedication for the good of people in Germany and in the neighboring European countries.”
Written in German, the telegram also stated the Pope’s wish that the “Merciful God” will reward him “for his tireless efforts in favor of unity of Germany and the union of Europe, as well as for his commitment to peace and reconciliation.”
The Lord gives eternal joy and life in heaven to those who have died, Francis said, imploring the consolation and blessing of God on the Kohl’s family and all who mourn him.
Near the end of their meeting, the Pope gifted Merkel a small bronze sculpture of an olive branch, symbolizing peace.
He also gave her the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family “Amoris Laetitia,” and his 2013 exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” all in German.
For her part, Merkel gave the Pope a gift of three jars of the Argentinian dessert, Dulce de leche, along with a CD set of symphonic works by Beethoven.
Afterward, Merkel met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
The Pope and Merkel have met for formal audiences at the Vatican three other times: in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Their first encounter was exchanged in St. Peter’s Basilica May 19, 2013, for the occasion of the Pope’s official installation Mass as Bishop of Rome.
June 16, the evening prior to the audience, Merkel met at the German Embassy with Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, head of the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.
According to a tweet by Fr. Zollner, the two discussed the topic of the safeguarding of minors.