The Pope said this today when he received in audience Geir Haarde, prime minister of Iceland. The leader then met with the Holy Father’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
The Vatican press office reported: “In the course of the cordial discussions, the mutual respect and esteem marking relations between Iceland and the Catholic Church were noted, as was the contribution the Church makes to society, especially in the educational and social fields.
“Certain international questions of joint interest were also examined, highlighting the need for an ever greater commitment on the part of the international community to promote peace, fight against poverty, and favor environmental protection.”
The audience with Benedict XVI was a first for Haarde, a Protestant, who showed enthusiasm when presenting the Holy Father a cross and a Bible translated to Icelandic. The Holy Father gave the prime minister pontifical metals and rosaries.
Only about 2% of Iceland’s 300,000 citizens are Catholic.