Pope Francis makes surprise visit to wake of former Italian president

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25/09/2023
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The day after returning from Marseille and an hour after the Angelus prayer on Sunday, the Pope made a surprise gesture: he left the Vatican to attend the wake of the former President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, who died on Friday at the age of 98. Pope Francis therefore became the first pope to visit the Italian Senate.

IGNAZIO LA RUSSA
President of the Senate of Italy
The first time the Holy Father crossed the threshold of the Senate he did so to pay homage to the president emeritus and, as he told me, to all of Italy.

He arrived in a wheelchair, but stood up to greet Napolitano's wife, whom he had already sent a telegram to on Friday. In it, the Pope described the late President as an “intellectual with a sincere passion for Italian political life.” Then, the Pope had a few moments of silence in front of the coffin.

A few days before, at the end of the General Audience, Pope Francis spoke of the former Italian president, who was hospitalized in a clinic in Rome.

POPE FRANCIS
I urge you to spare a thought for President Napolitano, who is in grave conditions of health. May he have comfort, this servant of the country.

Giorgio Napolitano had a very good relationship with Pope Francis, as he had with Pope Benedict XVI. Their terms of office began within a very short time of each other. Benedict was elected Pope in 2005 and Napolitano was elected President of Italy in 2006.

One of Benedict XVI's last official meetings as Pope was with Napolitano at the Vatican on February 6, 2013—a week before he resigned. Napolitano was a part of the communist party for decades and served as Italy's president, serving from 2006 to 2015. He was the longest serving head of state since the Republic of Italy was founded in 1946. In fact, he resigned from his second term at the age of 89.

The politician was not a believer. He wanted his funeral to be celebrated with a civil ceremony. In addition to the Pope, the current President of Italy, Sergio Matarella, and the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, were present at the Italian Senate.

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