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Modi invites Pope for visit

Published : 30 Oct 2021 09:45 PM | Updated : 31 Oct 2021 02:06 PM

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Pope Francis to visit his country - a significant turnaround after negotiations for a papal visit to India collapsed in 2017.

The invitation came after Mr Modi shared images of his first private meeting with the Pope at the Vatican.

The Indian prime minister is attending G20 summit of major world economies being held in Rome. The last pope to visit India was John Paul II in 1999.

Analysts suggest Mr Modi's invitation is significant because of concerns about an increase in discrimination and violence against religious minorities in India, including Christians.

Mr Modi's party, the BJP, has been accused of pursuing a pro-Hindu identity and agenda - something he denies.

In a tweet announcing the invitation, the prime minister said he had "a very warm meeting" with Pope Francis, and "had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him".

An unnamed source told The Hindu newspaper that the pair discussed ways to tackle poverty and climate change, among other topics.

But there is no indication religious freedom was addressed at the meeting.

The majority of India's population are Hindu. But there are around 24 million Christians in the country - around 2% of the population.

Pope Francis has frequently signalled his desire to visit India.

In 2016 he said he was "almost sure" that a trip would be arranged for the following year. But despite his visit to neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar, Indian Catholic leaders failed to convince Mr Modi to extend an invitation to the pontiff.

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