World

Pope meets with Harper and family

After attending the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Vatican on Saturday for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and family pose for a photo with Pope Benedict XVI during a private audience at the Vatican. ((Tiziana Fabi/Associated Press) )
After attending the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Vatican on Saturday for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

The PM and the pontiff opened their meeting with a brief French-language exchange on the G8 summit, for the cameras, then spoke privately for about 20 minutes.

Afterward, they were joined by the prime minister's wife, Laureen Harper, and their children, Ben and Rachel, for an exchange of gifts.

Harper presented a pink glass vase with an abstract gold leaf motif created by glassblower Andrew Kuntz at Ontario's Sheridan College.

In return, the prime minister received a glass mosaic fountain pen crafted at a Vatican workshop. The pen is a reproduction of one of the four pillars of St. Peter's Basilica.

"It was an honour to meet Pope Benedict and hear his perspective on a number of important issues, including human rights and an ethical response to the global economic crisis," Harper said in a statement released after his audience with the pontiff.

"I expressed my deep appreciation for the Holy Father's moral and humanitarian leadership as an advocate of human dignity, peace and religious liberty, and for the spiritual leadership he provides to Catholics in Canada and throughout the world," Harper said.

The visit came as the Harper family ended a four-day trip to Italy.

With files from The Canadian Press

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