President and Pope mark mutual good-faith

President Andris Bērziņš kicked off an international state trip with an official visit to Vatican City Saturday, as Pope Francis hosted the Latvian head-of-state’s delegation to mark the good relations between Latvia and the Holy See, reported Vatican Radio’s (VR) Latvian service.

The talks took place on very sincere terms, reported VR. Both sides concurred as to the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in the nation's social life and education, said a Vatican press release.

In light of Latvia’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU both sides directed discussion to common themes of global interest. In particular, the situation in Ukraine was mentioned, expressing hope that a political solution based on mutual dialogue would be given preference over continued disruptive conflict.

The Latvian President presented Pope Francis with an honorary copy of Terra Mariana (Land of Māra) 1186-1888, the annotated facsimile album chronicle of Livonia, dedicated to the canonizations of John Paul II (1920-2005) and John XXIII (1881-1963) and released jointly by the Latvian National Library and the Vatican in April 2014.

On his part Pope Francis presented President Bērziņš with the apostle’s Evangelii gaudium and bronze bas-relief of the Angel of Peace. According to the Pope’s official translator, it is the angel that is victorious over evil and war. Francis added: “It is a special gift for your efforts for the good of peace.”

The President invited Pope Francis to visit Latvia in 2015 to participate in the 800th anniversary celebrations of the Terra Mariana, adding “it would be a great honor for our nation.” As part of the papal visit the Presidential delegation also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolini and foreign affairs leader Archbishop Domenic Mamberti.

Afterwards Bērziņs visited Vatican Radio studios, meeting with Latvian-service staff and thanking them for their dedication to the Church’s message of hope and faith in strengthening social solidarity and in Latvia as well as unity of nations around the world. He said his invitation to Pope Francis to visit Latvia next year was made in that spirit.

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