VATICAN CITY, NOV. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI received today in audience President Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan of the South American nation of Suriname.
The Vatican press office confirmed after the encounter that the talks were “cordial” and that they “provided an opportunity for a fruitful exchange of opinions on questions concerning the current international and regional situation.”
The communiqué added that the two also addressed “certain aspects of the situation in Suriname, in particular on the social policies being introduced by the government, on the defense of the environment and on fields of collaboration between Church and State.”
Venetiaan, 73, also met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.
The president is serving his third non-consecutive 5-year term in office.
The Dutch gained control of Suriname in the 17th century, and maintained control of the nation until 1975. On Nov. 25, Suriname will celebrate 34 years as an independent nation.
Suriname has 481,267 inhabitants. Of those, 27.4% are Hindu, 25.2% are Protestant, 22.8% are Catholic, and 19.6% are Muslim. Those espousing indigenous beliefs count for 5% of the population. The official language of the country is Dutch.
This meeting is one of eight that Benedict XVI has had this month with world leaders.
In the last three weeks the Pope has met with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Croatian President Stipe Mesic, Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, Serbian President Boris Tadic, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The Pope will meet with at least four more leaders this month: the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Peruvian President Alan Garcia.