Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Pope Francis to visit his country: a significant turning point after the failure of negotiations for a papal visit to India in 2017.
The invitation came after Modi shared images of his first private meeting with the Pope at the Vatican.
The Indian premier participates in the G20 summit of the main world economies underway in Rome.
The last pope to visit India was John Paul II in 1999.
Analysts suggest Modi’s call is significant due to concerns over increased discrimination and violence against religious minorities in India, including Christians.
Modi’s party, the BJP, has been accused of pursuing a pro-Hindu identity and agenda, which he denies.
In a tweet announcing the invitation, the prime minister said he had “a very warm meeting” with Pope Francis and “had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him.”
I 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. @Pontifex pic.twitter.com/QP0If1uJAC
– Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 30, 2021
An anonymous source told The Hindu newspaper that the couple discussed ways to tackle poverty and climate change, among other topics.
But there is no indication that religious freedom was addressed during the meeting.
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The majority of the Indian population is Hindu. But there are about 24 million Christians in the country, about 2% of the population.
Pope Francis has repeatedly signaled his desire to visit India.
In 2016 he said he was “almost sure” that a trip would be organized for the following year. But despite his visit to neighboring Bangladesh and Myanmar, Indian Catholic leaders have failed to persuade Modi to extend the invitation to the pontiff.
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