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Pope Francis greets Juanma Moreno at the Vatican. SUR
Junta president Juanma Moreno invites Pope Francis to visit Andalucía region
Religion

Junta president Juanma Moreno invites Pope Francis to visit Andalucía region

During the audience at the Vatican the pair discussed the situation of immigrants, low birth rates and climate change and the pontiff was given a number of gifts including an olive branch planted by U2 frontman Bono at the Alhambra in 2018

Friday, 22 March 2024, 13:26

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President of the Junta de Andalucía Juanma Moreno took advantage of his audience with Pope Francis on Thursday 21 March to invite him to visit Andalucía. Moreno described it as "the European region with the greatest expressions of popular religion".

During the audience, which lasted almost an hour, Pope Francis showed interest in the situation of migrants, the resources available to attend to their needs and the possible solutions. The pair also discussed issues such as low birth rates and the consequences of climate change, Moreno said after the meeting. He added that the Pope was "cordial, attentive, pleasant and receptive".

Low birth rate

Another of the issues addressed was the low birth rate, which is causing depopulation in many regions of Europe. "He also asked me about the situation in Andalucía, what we are working on and what the social, economic and political situation is," Moreno said. "I found him very knowledgeable about the situation in Europe and Andalucía and concerned about the current problems and challenges facing us as a civilisation and as a society."

The president took the opportunity to invite Pope Francis to Andalucía and stressed that there are many reasons for the pontiff, who has never been to Spain, to pay a visit. "Andalucía is the region of Europe with the greatest fervour of popular religion, we have the most important pilgrimages in the world as well as 2,500 brotherhoods and nearly 600,000 members of the brotherhoods," said the president, referring to the Holy Week brotherhoods.

He went on to say, "There are many reasons to invite him and I have also told him that we are very close, just two hours by plane from Rome," and added that the Pope was in good health and has a great sense of humour. "He told a joke or two, I thought he was lively and cheerful, which really pleased me," said the president, who clarified that the Pope's possible visit to Andalucía would depend on his agenda and state of health. "He liked the invitation," Moreno said.

Gifts

The president revealed that of all the gifts he presented to the pontiff, the one he talked about most was a ceramic chalice made by people with learning disabilities at an occupational centre run by the Junta in Almería.

Pope Francis looked carefully at a photograph of the centre's users and commented on the need for institutions to provide opportunities for their professional development. The Pope pointed out that they are people who have the capacity to work in different fields and who often feel abandoned. "It was probably the gift he liked the most," said the president.

Moreno, who was accompanied by his wife and four members of his team, also gave the pontiff a bronze sculpture by the Seville sculptor Juan Manuel Miñarro with the face of the Holy Shroud. He also presented the Pope with a sample of incense from Andalucía, Moroccan biscuits from Ecija made by the nuns of the Purísima Concepción de Osuna and a branch of the olive tree planted in the Alhambra by U2 frontman Bono as a symbol of peace and understanding of different cultures. This branch comes from an olive tree that Pope Francis gave the artist in 2018, which Bono decided to plant at the Alhambra.

Moreno was surprised by the length of the meeting, which lasted longer than he had expected. "It has been a very special day, very special to be able to have this audience with His Holiness", he said, adding that he did it on behalf of a region "closely linked to Christianity and Catholicism and with a great deal of religious fervour".

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