Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "During the cordial discussions, the good relations between Japan and the Holy See were evoked" in today's meeting between Pope Francis and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
During the "cordial discussions", a Vatican statement said, the parties "turned to several current regional and international themes, with particular reference to initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in the Asian continent, Japan's commitment to cooperation for development, especially in Africa, attention to the environment, and nuclear disarmament."
When the two leaders came to the traditional exchange of gifts, the Japanese leader gave the pontiff something quite unique: the replica of a mirror with hidden religious symbolism like the ones used by underground Christians in Japan when they were persecuted in the 17th century.
The object looks like an ordinary a mirror but when exposed to sunlight, it shows a cross and a picture of Jesus. As the pope and Abe approached the window in the Vatican library to expose the mirror to the sun, they saw the images.
Abe said that he chose this gift because he remembered what Francis had said: "Not a single priest was left in Japan [. . .] When, after about two and a half centuries [. . .] the missionaries returned [. . .], thousands of Christians came out of hiding" after surviving "by the grace of their Baptism".
As he greeted the pope on his arrival, Abe said that it was "a great honour to be here". He also thanked the pontiff for his message to the victims of the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.
His gifts also included two portraits, one of Hasekura, a Japanese diplomat, and the other of Pope Paul V, who met 400 years ago in the Vatican.
Francis reciprocated by giving the Japanese leader a medallion depicting St Peter's original design.