Pope Receives Rouhani

Pope Receives Rouhani
Pope Receives Rouhani

Pope Francis and President Hassan Rouhani held private talks at the Vatican on Tuesday.

Rouhani's visit to the Holy See marked the first meeting between a pope and an Iranian president since 1999.

Iran, which agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for an end to economic sanctions, is eager to carve out a bigger role in mediating Middle East conflicts. Francis' papacy has been marked by mediation and conflict resolution.

The president is on a four-day European swing to boost Iran's image abroad as well as to rehabilitate economic ties with a continent that had been a major trade partner before sanctions.

"I ask you to pray for me," Rouhani told Francis after their 40-minute meeting, according to AP. He called the visit by a senior official of a Muslim country to the head of the Roman Catholic church "a real pleasure".

Francis thanked Rouhani for the visit and added, "I hope for peace." He gave the Iranian a medal depicting St. Martin helping a poor man, an act Francis called "a sign of unsolicited brotherhood."

Rouhani brought a gift of a handmade rug. He told the pope the red-toned carpet was made in the Iranian holy city of Qom.