Vatican City, Sep 11, 2014 / 12:02 am .- The newly created Italian cardinals lunched Tuesday with Matteo Renzi, prime minister of Italy, discussing with him and his associates persecuted Christians, immigration, and employment challenges.
The Sept. 9 lunch also set the basis for an official meeting between Renzi and Pope Francis.
Renzi, who assumed office Feb. 22, has yet to pay the Pope an official state visit, though he and his family did meet with him in private, for under an hour, at Domus Sanctae Marthae April 4.
During their lunch with Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, Renzi’s delegation reportedly scheduled a state visit to the Vatican.
By tradition, after each consistory, the newly created Italian cardinals are invited to lunch at the Italian embassy to the Holy See, an occasion that permits them to be introduced to the members of the Italian government and to informally discuss topics of mutual concern.
The Vatican delegation was composed of Cardinals Pietro Parolin; Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy; and Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia.
Together with them were Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa; Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State; and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States.
The Italian delegation was composed, in addition to Renzi, by Federica Mogherini, minister for foreign affairs; Angelino Alfano, minister for internal affairs; Maurizio Lupi, minister for infrastructure; and Maria Elena Boschi, minister for relations with parliament.
The host of the meeting was Francesco Maria Greco, Italy’s ambassador to the Holy See.
No official releases were delivered after the informal lunch.
Cardinal Bassetti told journalists afterwards that the cardinals and members of the government spoke “about employment and school system," but also about “foreign policy," with a wide-open discussion about the situations in the Middle East, Ukraine, and north Africa, with a particular stress on the persecuted Christians.
Immigration was also one of the topics at stake – Italy faces roughly 1,000 immigrant arrivals per day.
Pope Francis is very concerned about the issue: his first trip as Pope was to the island of Lampedusa, at the extreme southern border of Italy, where many ships full of immigrants have sank.
The Italian navy is now conducting a massive interdiction and rescue operation in central Mediterranean, at a cost of more than $12 million a month.
Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy effort for its efforts immigrants at the end of the Sept. 10 General Audience.
During the Communion and Liberation encounter in Rimini, Admiral De Giorgi, Head of State Major of the Italian Navy, proposed Aug. 25 the institution of a European interforce group under Italian guidance in order to counter illegal immigration in the Mediterranean.
De Giorgi’s proposal was among the ideas discussed during the Sept. 10 lunch.
The meeting with new Italian cardinals is an institutional tradition, which consists in a lunch with the President of the Republic and a lunch with the Prime Minister and members of government.
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano invited the four newly created for lunch March 18.
The last lunch between members of government and new cardinals was held March 21, 2012, after the penultimate consistory of Benedict XVI.