Rice and Cardinal Sodano Discuss Religious Freedom, and Mideast

U.S. Secretary of State Expresses Hopes for Pope’s Speedy Recovery

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with her counterpart in the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and discussed the Mideast and religious freedom in the world.

Rice, on a tour through Europe, expressed her hope for John Paul II’s speedy recovery, when she stopped at the Vatican today.

Although the U.S. secretary of state could not be received by the Pope, hospitalized since Feb. 1 due to complications caused by the flu, she and her official delegation were received by Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

After the meeting, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls said in a statement that at «the beginning of their cordial meeting, which lasted for almost an hour, Cardinal Sodano presented the Holy Father’s greetings to his guest, asking her to pass them on to President Bush.»

«In turn, Condoleezza Rice, in the name of President Bush, of the American people, and in her own name, expressed best wishes for the speedy recovery of His Holiness,» added the Vatican statement.

Then there was an exchange of opinions «on various international problems, with particular reference to the Holy Land, to the Middle East, and to the situation in other Asian countries,» reported Navarro Valls. «Attention was also given to the theme of religious freedom in various parts of the world.

«Finally, certain questions concerning bilateral relations were considered, reaffirming the will to collaborate in safeguarding and promoting spiritual values.»

Also present at the meeting were Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary; and other officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Rice was accompanied by Brent Hardt, official representative of the U.S. Embassy; Beth Jones, undersecretary of state for European affairs; and spokesman Richard Boucher.

Cardinal Sodano noted with a smile that the members of the U.S. delegation were «very young.»

He gave Rice a book on the Vatican and a medal in which Europe’s Christian roots were coined and said: «There is no need to ratify the Christian roots of the United States.»

«It is always an honor to come to the Vatican,» said Rice, who gave a silver tray as a gift.

«Perfect for our chocolates,» added Cardinal Sodano.

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