John Paul II Receives Son of Last King of Italy

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2002 ( Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, son of the last king of Italy, visited John Paul II in the Vatican, ending a 50-year exile from his country.

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«Welcome!» the Pope said Saturday when he received the prince, his wife, Marina Doria, and his son, Emmanuel Philibert, in his private study.

A statement issued by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said the 20-minute audience served to exchange greetings for Christmas and the New Year.

«Prince Victor Emmanuel thanked the Holy Father for the audience, which he described as ‘historic’ for his family,» Navarro-Valls added.

Later, the prince, his wife and son met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

The Savoy family arrived in the early morning at Rome’s Ciampino airport in a private plane from Geneva. After the audience, they left for the airport to return to Geneva.

It was the first time the head of the Royal House of Savoy stepped on Italian soil, following the 1946 decree that sent all male members of the Savoy family into exile for having collaborated with Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime.

In November, Victor Emmanuel and his son were given permission to return to Italy as simple citizens, following the introduction of a constitutional reform approved by the Italian Parliament and government.

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