-Good morning, mister president.
-It's so nice to meet you, I am so glad.
During the 20 minute long meeting, the two leaders spoke about the situation in Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chávez. Topics such as the fight against crime, drug trade and poverty were also addressed. The Pope and Maduro also discussed the role the Catholic Church and its charitable institutions play in Venezuela.
In the past, the relationship between the two states has been tense. But the general attitude was very easy going and both Maduro and the Pope joked a lot during their conversations.
-You're thinner than you look in photographs.
-You know, it's television that deforms you … I never wear makeup!
Even when the Pope greeted Nicolás Maduro's entourage, he didn't lose the opportunity to make funny remarks.
-The first admiral of the Venezuelan fleet.
-Your Holiness, a great honor. Can I kiss your ring?
-Pray for me.
-But pray for me, not against me, OK?
-Always for you!
As a present, the Pope received an image of the Virgin of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela, a lithograph of Simon Bolivar and a sculpted image of José Gregorio Hernández, a doctor from Caracas whose beatification process is currently underway. In turn, the Pope gave Maduro a white pen from the Vatican Museum and a copy of the Aparecida conclusion.
-Look at the index and read the chapter you find most interesting, it's worth it. I was in the committee who drafted this. It's a cry for help from Latin America.
At the end of the meeting Pope Francis blessed the Venezuelan president by tracing the sign of the Cross over his forehead.
RCG / BB