POPE Francis said Gibraltar’s harmony and respect among religions ‘must be preserved’ as he met with its Chief Minister and Governor at the Vatican in a private audience.
The leader of the Catholic Church invited both Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Governor Sir David Steel to the religious enclave last Monday.
The pair then flew out to Rome where they expressed the way that different religious communities in Gibraltar live together in peace.
They said it symbolised King Charles III’s message for ‘a community of communities’ to reflect the success of multiculturalism.
Steel said in the discussion with the pontiff that he had been humbled by how in his time as governor he had seen that respect and harmony in Gibraltar.
And Picardo added ‘how proud all Gibraltarians are of the interfaith relationships Gibraltar can boast of’.
The pope replied that this ‘was to be treasured’, in a government statement.
The trio then had a half hour chat on world affairs and matters related to Gibraltar.
The governor then presented the pope with a gift of a facsimile of a document from the Garrison Library and the biography of Bishop Rapallo,’First and Last’.
The pontiff returned the gesture with a model of an olive branch, a copy of his encyclicals and a personally signed copy of his ‘Message for Peace’.
Francis also presented all those in the delegation with his personal medal.
After the meeting, Picardo and Steel met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin with whom they had a longer discussion on world affairs.