CNA Staff, May 22, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis received European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a private audience on Saturday.
The Holy See press office said May 22 that the pope received the 62-year-old German leader in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. They spoke for about 30 minutes.
The press office added that von der Leyen later met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
“During the cordial discussions, reference was made to the good bilateral relations, recently advanced thanks to the structured dialogue between the parties, and the current initiatives for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the European Union,” the press office said.
“Attention then turned to the theme of the human and social development of the continent, also with a view to the recently initiated Conference on the Future of Europe.”
“The parties then considered some issues of common interest, such as the social consequences of the pandemic, migration and climate change, and the recent developments in the Middle East.”
Von der Leyen, a Lutheran and mother of seven children, has served as president of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, since Dec. 1, 2019. The EU is an economic and political union of 27 European countries.
In a May 22 interview with Vatican News, she described relations between the Holy See and the EU as “excellent.”
“The good cooperation is basically based on sharing the same values, working for peace, for solidarity, for the dignity of the human being,” she said.
The European Union is organizing weekly walks in Rome in May and June to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the EU and the Holy See.
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has frequently expressed concern at disunity among European countries.
Pope Francis warned Europe’s leaders in October that the project of European unity is at risk unless they “rediscover the path of fraternity” that inspired the project’s founders.