The speculation continues. Reports suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet Pope Francis later this week before he attends the G20 summit in Rome. But so far, there is no confirmation from the ministry of external affairs or the Vatican.
If the meeting does happen on Friday, Modi will become the fifth prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, I.K. Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
This is not the first time that there has been speculation that a Modi-Pope meeting may happen. On January 19 this year, three cardinals met Modi, where the cardinals are learnt to have renewed their long-standing demand of asking the pontiff to visit India. It is believed that the PM responded “positively’’ according to reports. “He (Modi) may be looking for an appropriate time," Mar George Cardinal Alencherry was quoted in an article in THE WEEK.
The cardinals also told the PM that the Pope was keen to visit India. The last visit by a Pope to India was in 1999 when the late John II came to the country. That the Pope visited Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2017 and did not come to India, caused much heartburn in the community.
While the papal visit may not be on the cards as yet, Modi meeting the Pope will certainly inspire goodwill back in India.