By Vatican News
Pope Francis on Monday met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, at an Audience at the Vatican.
According to a communique from the Holy See Press Office, the “cordial talks” emphasized “important initatives underway for the promotion of national reconciliation, and for the integral development of Ethiopia”. The talks also focused on the “role of Christianity in the history of the Ethiopian people”—Ethiopia was one of the first lands to adopt Christianity, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church remains the largest religious body in the country by population.
A significant sign of peace
During the discussions, the situation in Eastern Africa was addressed, including the importance of the “peaceful resolution of conflicts and the socio-economic development of Africa.” In particular, Ethiopia’s “commitment to the stabilization of the Horn of Africa,” and the recent resumption of diplomatic relations with Eritrea were noted.
Earlier this month, in his address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis took special note of the “historic agreement” between the two countries, which he described as one of the significant signs of peace in the past year.
Exchange of gifts
At the conclusion of their encounter, the two leaders made a traditional exchange of gifts, with the Prime Minister offering a present of traditional Ethiopian fabrics, along with a painting of the Risen Christ. The Holy Father, for his part, presented Prime Minister Abiy with a medallion with an image of an ear of corn and a bunch of grapes in the desert – a reference, the Pope explained, to the prophecy of Isaiah, that the desert would one day become a garden. Pope Francis also gave the prime minister a copy of the text of the Message for the World Day of Peace, and bound copies of four other Pontifical Documents: Evangelii gaudium, Laudato sí, Gaudete et exultate, and Amoris laetitia.
Following the Audience with the Holy Father, Prime Minister Abiy met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States.