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President Higgins to meet with Pope Francis in the Vatican

Date: Thu 19th Oct, 2023 | 07:11

Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins, will this morning meet with His Holiness Pope Francis at a Private Audience in the Pontiff’s Library in the Vatican.

It is anticipated that President Higgins will discuss a number of issues of shared interest with Pope Francis, including the interlinked global challenges of climate change, migration, global poverty, food security, the rights of indigenous people and global peace. President Higgins has praised the contribution which Pope Francis has made to the vital debate on these issues, including in his recent encyclical Laudate Deum.

Today’s meeting will be the fourth such engagement between President Higgins and Pope Francis, following previous meetings in the Vatican in 2017 and 2021 and at Áras an Uachtaráin in 2018. President Higgins also met with Pope Francis at the Papal Inauguration in 2013.

At their meeting, President Higgins will present Pope Francis with a sculpture entitled ‘The Expelled’ by renowned Irish sculptor John Behan RHA. The President chose to present this piece to Pope Francis in recognition of the vital work which the Pope has carried out in drawing public attention to the plight of refugees and migrants across the world. 

Following his Private Audience with Pope Francis, President Higgins will hold a bilateral meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin.

President Higgins will then travel to Campo Santo in the Teutonic Pontifical College, where he will lay a wreath in honour of the late Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, whose dedicated and courageous work during the Nazi occupation of Rome during World War II saved the lives of thousands of people. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the death of Monsignor O’Flaherty.

This evening, President Higgins will view the exhibition ‘Ireland and the Birth of Europe’ at the Irish Pontifical College. The exhibition tells the story of the role played by Irish scholars and missionaries, including Saint Columbanus and his followers, in the shaping of a shared European identity.

The events take place as part of a five-day programme which President Higgins is undertaking in Rome to coincide with his participation in the World Food Forum. President Higgins delivered addresses at the Opening Session of the Forum and at the annual observance of World Food Day at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation on Monday. On Friday, the President will provide the keynote address at the Closing Session of the Forum. The President met with the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, at the Quirinale Palace on Tuesday.