Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian Sudanese woman who was spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam, has met Pope Francis after arriving in Italy following a diplomatic effort by the the Italian government. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Vatican was also involved in the negotiations.
Ms Ibrahim, 27, was flown to Rome’s Ciampino airport with her family and Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli. Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi met them at the airport. He said: “Today is a day of celebration.”
From the airport Ms Ibrahim and her family were taken to the Pope guesthouse residency, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, in the Vatican.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists that the encounter in the Pope’s residence was marked by “affection” and “great serenity and joy.”
They had “a beautiful conversation,” during which the Pope thanked Ibrahim for “her steadfast witness of faith,” the priest said.
Ibrahim thanked the Pope for the Church’s prayers and support during her plight, Father Lombardi said.
The Vatican spokesman said the meeting was a sign of the Pope’s “closeness, solidarity and presence with all those who suffer for their faith,” adding that Ibrahim’s ordeal has come to represent the serious challenges many people face in living out their faith.
The informal conversation also touched upon the family’s plans now that Ibrahim is free, he said. The Pope gave the family a few small gifts, including papal rosaries.
Ms Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy in April.
She married her husband Daniel Wani, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims.
The sentence was condemned by the US, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others. Sudan’s high court quashed the death sentence in June, but upon her release she was prevented from leaving the country after officials questioned the validity of her travel documents.
Ms Ibrahim took refuge in the US embassy where she was visited by Mr Pistelli two weeks ago. Ms Ibrahim arrived in Italy with her husband, 18-month-old son and baby girl, who she gave birth to while shackled in prison in May.
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