Modi in audience with the Pope this Saturday
The Vatican has confirmed the meeting with the Indian prime minister who will be in Rome for the G20 Summit. Their tête-à-tête is politically important for India, as it is the first visit to the Vatican by the Hindu nationalist leader, head of the government since 2014.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Pope Francis next Saturday. The Vatican confirmed the visit, scheduled for at 8.30 am, which should include a 30-minute tête-à-tête between the two men.
For Prime Minister Modi, this meeting is politically significant. In power since 2014, the Indian leader had never requested an audience at the Vatican before.
His Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), includes radical groups that openly claim that Christians are a threat to Indian identity, going so far as engaging in violent anti-Christian behaviour.
The last meeting between a pope and an Indian prime minister dates back to 2000 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also a member of the BJP, met in audience with Pope John Paul II.
A few days ago, Indian newspapers reported of a possible Modi visit to the Vatican during the 2021 G20 Summit in Rome (30-31 October) before heading to COP26 in Glasgow (Scotland).
Pope Francis received an official Indian delegation in September 2016 for the canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta; on that occasion, the Modi government was represented by then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
A possible trip by Pope Francis to India has been raised on several occasions in recent years, but an official invitation has never arrived from New Delhi because of the opposition of radical Hindu nationalists.
So far, two pontiffs have travelled to India: Paul VI in 1964 and John Paul II in 1986 and 1999.