Higgins and Pope Francis discussed various themes the Pope has close to his heart.
Pope Francis received Irish President Michael D. Higgins in audience at the Vatican on September 17, for about 40 minutes.
While the press office of the Holy See gave a customary account of the meeting, as it does when heads of state meet the Bishop of Rome, the Irish Times gave its own account:
During the formal photocall, the Pope said: “Today, I did not just meet a man, a President, I met a wise man of today.
“I thank God that Ireland has such a wise man as its Head (of State).”
This was the third official meeting of the pair. In 2017, Higgins visited the Vatican, and in August 2018, Pope Francis met him during his apostolic trip to Ireland.
During the traditional exchange of gifts, the President of the Republic of Ireland offered Pope Francis a traditional “Fisherman’s Stick,” which with its three interwoven strands symbolizes the Trinity.
For his part, the pontiff offered the politician the major texts of his pontificate as well as a mosaic representing the sower of the Gospel.
A few days earlier, the Irish president had announced that he wanted to discuss vaccine inequality with Pope Francis, a theme that has been very much on the heart of the Holy Father.
He also said he wanted to talk climate change – in view of the COP26 in Glasgow (United Kingdom) where the pontiff could go – and the economic development of poor countries. The Holy See’s press release confirms that these themes, but also that of migrants, were addressed during the visit.
As is usually the case with Heads of State who visit the Vatican, the Irish President was also received by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and the Secretary for Relations with States, Bishop Paul Richard Gallagher. They discussed, among other things, the issue of diplomatic relations between the two countries.