On Saturday, Pope Francis met with the president of the Republic of Singapore, marking 35 years of diplomatic relations between the Southeast Asian country and the Holy See, and the first ever state visit by a Singaporean president to a Pope.
During the visit, President Tony Tan Keng Yam and the pontiff addressed topics relating to “the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the promotion of human rights, stability, justice and peace in south-east Asia,” according to a statement by the Holy See press office.
The “cordial discussion” also addressed the “good relations between the Holy See and Singapore,” and the “collaboration between the Church and the State, especially in the educational and social fields,” the statement continues.
After the meeting, Pope Francis gave President Tan a medal of peace, explaining how government is about bringing people together.
The Pope then presented a copy of his encyclical Laudato, Si' to the president, who in turn thanked the pontiff for speaking out about climate change, saying: “it is a big problem.”
The president for his part gave the pontiff an etching of Singapore's Gardens by the Bay nature park, and a book of about the country's exotic flowers.
President Tan also met with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, along with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
The May 28 meeting at the Vatican comes at the final leg of the president's week-long State Visit, during which he stopped in Rome and Venice.
Diplomatic relations between Singapore and the Holy See officially began June 24, 1981 under the pontificate of St. John Paul II.
Since 1965, Singapore has also had relations with Italy, one of the first countries to recognize its status of independence.