Chile's President Piñera Visits Pontiff

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2011 ( The president of Chile has assured Benedict XVI that he shares with him a commitment to protect life from conception till natural death.

Sebastián Piñera visited the Pope in Rome on Thursday. «Thank you very much for receiving me; it is an honor for me,» Piñera said, noting that it was «the second time that I’ve been with a Pope.»

The Chilean president remarked on the difficulties his nation has endured over the last year, «with the earthquake and the rescue of the miners but, despite all, we are well.»

During the Pope’s conversation with the president, a monk was there to translate. At the end of the meeting, he commented that «as the Pope speaks Spanish and Piñera [spoke] so slowly and clearly, my help was practically not necessary.»

The Vatican’s official communiqué reported that the two discussed «questions of mutual interest, such as the protection of human life and the family, aid for integral development, the fight against poverty, respect for human rights, social justice and peace. In this context, the positive role played by Catholic institutions in Chilean society was reiterated, especially in human promotion and education.»

Toward the end of the audience, which lasted 25 minutes, the president’s 17-person delegation joined the meeting. The president’s wife, Cecilia Morel Montes de Piñera, was among the group, as were various administrative officials.

President Piñera went on to meet with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. The president also visited the sepulcher of Pope John Paul II.

A bit of everything

On leaving the Vatican he met with journalists and commented on the audience. «We spoke a bit about everything, and the Pope sent all Chileans words of encouragement in our struggle for the defense of life from conception until natural death, in defense of the unborn child, the family and human rights in Chile and in the whole world.»

Piñera added that «we talked about our agreement in defense of fundamental values such as liberty and the protection of the environment, and I thanked him for the words he sent us when the earthquake occurred and the miners’ accident.»

The president said he invited the Pope to visit Chile, telling him that «we Chileans are nostalgic about John Paul II’s visit. And the Pope reminded me that he is [almost] 84, that it is difficult, but that he would do everything possible.»

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