VATICAN CITY – Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez, who is currently in Italy on an official European visit, invited Pope Francis on Monday to visit the South American country for a second time.
Abdo Benitez arrived at the Vatican with a 17-member delegation including his Foreign Affairs Chancellor, Luis Alberto Castiglioni, the First Lady, Silvana Lopez Moreira and their two children, Mario and Santiago.
The Paraguayan president arrived at the Vatican laden with presents for the pope: from a papal throne to mandioca bars.
Another gift was a folder containing details of the restoration project of a chapel in La Costanera de Asuncion devoted to the Lay-sister Maria Felicia de Jesus Sacramentado, also known as “La Chiquitunga,” a cultural project supported by the Paraguayan first lady.
“We hope you can come to inaugurate it,” said Abdo Benitez, although the pope had already visited Paraguay back in July 2015.
The pope responded to the exchange of gifts by presenting Abdo Benitez with a painting representing Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1620, the four books the Holy Father has written during his pontificate and a bronze medallion which the pontiff said he hoped would inspire the Paraguayan leader to work towards “peace and unity.”
After his 25-minute Papal audience, Abdo Benitez met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and will later meet the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella.
On the other hand, the Paraguayan first lady will visit the headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu hospital.