Madagascar leader Andry Rajoelina meets Pope Francis By RIVONALA RAZAFISON in Antananarivo | Saturday, April 27   2013 at  19:25

Mr Rajoelina and Pope Francis.  

Pope Francis, who is considered the Pope of the poor, has met with the leader of one of the world's poorest nations.

President Andry Rajoelina was on Friday the first African leader received by the new Pope Francis, information sent to newsrooms from the Vatican Saturday said.

The Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City state received in audience President Andry Rajoelina, the Holy City Information Service said.

Madagascar’s five delegates including the First Lady Mialy Rajoelina attended the meeting of about 15 minutes in the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

They then met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is the Vatican’s secretary of state, together with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who is the secretary for relations with states.

The talks reportedly focused on the good relations existing between the Holy City and the Republic of Madagascar, according to the service.

Some aspects of the country’s prevailing political crisis were also examined.

Madagascar's efforts in paving the way for stability and democracy, greater economic development, and reconstruction of international relations were noted.

The island country holds elections in July.

The Malagasy Church’s significant contribution in supporting national dialogue and its commitment in the areas of health and education were highlighted as well.

Last week, the Ecumenical Council of the Christian Churches (FFKM) in Madagascar, which is this year headed by the Roman Catholic Church in the country, organised a high profile conference amid the crisis resolution.

The gathering called for the creation of new and neutral transitional authority, among others, a proposal that has been roundly opposed.

The Archbishop of Antananarivo Mgr Odon Razanakolona was reportedly uninformed of the focus of the Vatican meeting.

Following the crisis on the island nation that begun in 2009, Antananarivo has reportedly several times asked to be received at the Vatican City.

This never happened under previous Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned the papacy in February.