Sarkozy and Pope Discuss Religion

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI and the president of France discussed today the importance of religion in today's world.

Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Holy Father in his private library for 30 minutes, his first visit to the Pontiff as president of France. Afterward, Sarkozy went on to meet with the Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

"Your Holiness, you truly speak excellent French," Sarkozy told him. The two discussed "a number of questions of mutual interest concerning the current situation of France. Mention was made of the good relations that exist between the Catholic Church and the French Republic, and of the role of religions, especially the Catholic Church, in the world," the Vatican press office reported.

The statement added: "Particular attention was given to the international situation with reference to the future of Europe, the conflicts in the Middle East, the social and political problems of certain African countries, and the drama of hostages.

"At the end of the conversation, best wishes were exchanged for the forthcoming feasts of Christmas and the New Year."

Before leaving the Vatican, Sarkozy visited the tomb of Pope John Paul II.