Pope Francis met in the Vatican on Tuesday with the heir to the British throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
The meeting came on the fourth day of an Italian tour which has taken the prince to the northern city of Vicenza for a First World War commemoration, to the earthquake hit town of Amatrice in central Italy, and to Florence, where he visited a Caritas-run project for immigrants, the elderly and single mothers.
The Duchess also spent a day in Naples meeting with trafficked women and youngsters with learning difficulties at a former Mafia villa which was confiscated by the State.
A press release from the British embassy to the Holy See said that during the papal audience in the Paul VI hall the Pope and the prince talked about a number of topics of mutual interest.
They also exchanged gifts: Pope Francis gave the royal couple a bronze representation of an olive branch, and copies of his three major documents, ‘Laudato Sì’, ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ and ‘Amoris Laetitia’.
Prince Charles presented the Holy Father with a hamper of food from the royal estate at Highgrove, to be shared among the poor and homeless.
The half hour private meeting was reportedly relaxed and informal, marking the prince’s fourth visit to the Vatican but his first encounter with Pope Francis. Given their shared concern for the environment, it’s likely that protection of the planet featured prominently in the conversation.
Accepting an award in Florence on Monday, the prince spoke of the interdependence of human beings with the natural world, as well as highlighting the vital contribution of the UK and Italy to global peacekeeping.
Interfaith dialogue may also have been a topic for discussion: among those meeting the prince earlier in the day at the Venerable English College was English Cardinal Vincent Nichols and four Muslim leaders from the UK, who will have their own papal audience on Wednesday morning.
Before leaving the Vatican Prince Charles met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See Secretary of State. The royal couple were also given a tour of the Vatican library and secret archives, allowing them to see some of the priceless historical documents preserved in both collections.
These included the last letter written by condemned Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, before her execution for treason; another letter by Pope Paul IV condemning Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, one of the leaders of the English Reformation; and a letter by King Charles I approving the appointment of his ambassador in Rome.