2009-07-09 16:02:57

Australia and Korea at the Vatican

(09 Jul 09 - RV) The police presence is manifest here at the Vatican as Heads of State and Government, in Italy to participate in meetings on the sidelines of the G8 summit, make their way to the Apostolic Palace for a Papal audience before their return flights home.

On Thursday it was the turn of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak.

Before lunch the Pope met with the Australian premier, who brought a gift of a wooden box containing six bottles of Australian Rosè wine and more poignantly a book that represents the Australian government’s apology to the nation’s stolen generation of Aborigine children.

The Pope in turn gave Premier Rudd an autographed copy of his recently published encyclical Charity in Truth as well as a fountain pen designed to echo Bernini’s columns. Premier Rudd revealed to the Pope that he had already begun reading the latest papal encyclical, the cover of which is emblazoned with a photograph of the Pope welcomed by hoards of young people on Sydney Warf, during his 2008 voyage there for World Youth Day celebrations.

During their meeting between both men recalled the great spirit of collaboration between the church and civil authorities that characterised the event.

Of an altogether different note was the Pope’s Meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.

The President was in l'Aquila to participate in the enlarged G8 summit on environmental issues.

There are over 5.1 million Catholics in South Korea - over 10% the population. South Korea (and by extension the Catholic Church in all Korea, north and south) has the fourth largest number of saints in the Roman Catholic Church

The closed door meeting between with the Pope and President Myung-bak lasted almost half an hour, and according to a communiqué released immediately afterwards, the encounter “provided an opportunity for an exchange of ideas on certain themes of common interest, among them the effects of the world economic crisis, especially on the poorest countries, and the political and social situation on the Korean peninsula”.

President Lee then presented his wife, dressed in a white suit (the colour symbolic of peace in
the Asian country), and gifted the Pope two framed photographs one black and one white: one that portrays last February’s funeral of Korean Cardinal Kim (a fellow-student of the Pope’s).

On Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI met with Japanese Premier Taro Aso, while on Friday afternoon President Barack Obama is due to have his first audience with the Pope before he departs Italy bound for Ghana.

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