Pope Francisreceived in the Vatican today Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who was in Rome after a trip to Russia and China; it was the first time he has been received by the Holy Father.
At the end of the near 35-minute private meeting, the doors of the library opened and the president’s wife, Nadine Heredia, entered along with Chancellor Gonzalo Gutierrez; Juan Carlos Gamarra, ambassador to the Holy See; and three other members of the delegation. The Pope, the president and his wife remained standing for an additional 10 minutes, during which time they exchanged gifts.
Among the gifts was a shirt of the Peruvian soccer team, “knowing of your fondness for soccer,” said the president, who asked the Pope to intercede “so that the Peruvian team will classify, given that it has not reached the finals for 22 years.”
They also gave the Pontiff a white scarf of alpaca wool, a book on the Lord of the Miracles, and a small image of Saint Martin of Porres with his famous broom. They spoke about the procession of the Purple Christ, which makes the city of Lima come to a halt. They also gave him a Peruvian cook book, and a packet of native quinoa cereal, “so that you eat with relish,” added Nadine.
The Holy Father gave his guest a medal of the second year of his pontificate and a copy of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, as well as some rosaries.
Humala said to the Pope that he appreciates “especially your effort to integrate the elderly, children and the poor. It is necessary to put an end to this policy of the throw-away,” he said.
They also invited the Pontiff to visit Peru.
As he left the Vatican, the president held an informal press conference. He reiterated the importance of his meeting with the Pope to “reaffirm Christian values,” adding that they spoke about global warming.
“In December of next year, Peru will host a summit on climate change and we believe that His Holiness’ message on this subject will be important,” revealed the president.
“I felt at ease, as if at home, treated with much affection and, although he is the Pope, he has that Latin American warmth,” said the president.
Another subject they broached was “the mainly Catholic character of Latin America and the need of the Lord’s word in the matter of the struggle against inequality.” They also spoke about the “policy of social inclusion exercised in Peru, through a government that is committed to fight against chronic infant malnutrition as well as helping the peoples of the interior of the country with basic health service policies, and giving opportunities to all Peruvian men and women,” said Humala.
A phrase that struck me, said the president, “is that we cannot continue with the policy of the throw-away, of elderly adults, of children and now of young people. Therefore we have to fight for dignified employment in the villages and for young people who are the most vulnerable when there is unemployment, and for elderly adults and for the right to life.”
With Nadine, we spoke to Francis “about the Pope’s role in FAO’s international conference in the struggle against malnutrition.”
He also reminded that Peru has surpassed the objectives of the millennium, which in the year 2000 proposed to reduce hunger by half by 2015, a “task which Peru is surpassing amply.”
“Knowing his fondness for soccer, we brought him the shirt of the Peruvian Team and asked him to pray that Peru classify for the next World Cup. We also gave him a holy card of Peru’s patron, Saint Martin of Porres, one of the most emblematic figures of Peru,” added the President.
Asked by ZENIT if he had joked about Saint Martin of Porres’ broom, he said: “With great affection he calls him ‘the dark one of the broom,’ because among his miracles, Saint Martin made a dog, a cat and a rat eat from the same plate. And the Pope recommended, when we have problems in the Government with some who do not work well, that we sweep them with that broom.”[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]