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Pope urges Prince Charles to work for peace

The Prince of Wales with Pope Francis during an audience at the Vatican PICTURE: Tim Rooke/PA

POPE Francis has urged the Prince of Wales to work to bring peace to the world as the pair met in Rome for the first time.

The pontiff received Charles and Camilla, who are coming to the end of a nine-day European tour, for a papal audience in the heart of Vatican City.

During the traditional exchange of gifts that followed the private meeting that lasted almost half an hour, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church told the heir to the throne: "Wherever you go, may you be a man of peace" and the prince replied: "I'll do my best".

Charles had given the Pope a large hamper of produce – from his Highgrove estate –for the poor and the homeless and framed photos of himself and his wife, while the pontiff presented him with a bronze olive branch, signifying peace, and copies of his writings on climate change bound in red leather and other papal writings.

Pope Francis' reputation as a Pope with the "common touch" and a taste for simple living has seen him dispense with some of the formality and trappings of his position.

And in keeping with the relaxed nature of the meeting the duchess did not wear black or a mantilla, for the meeting, as she did when the royal couple met Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, but a gold silk Anna Valentine dress.

A Vatican spokesman said: "Things have become more relaxed over the last few years, there are no hard and fast rules."

The private audience took place in a study within the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall building in the Vatican, a modern structure used for papal meetings.

It is close to the Casa Santa Marta, the guest house home of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who refused to move into spacious papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace.

The Pope was waiting at the door of his study for his guests and after shaking their hands he sat on one side of a table for the discussions while the couple took seats opposite him.

Pope Francis and Charles and Camilla sat down to talk at 5pm without their aides or advisers, although it is thought an interpreter was present, for the meeting that lasted 27 minutes.

At the end, the Pope accompanied them from the study to a nearby larger room where senior members of Charles' entourage were waiting.

One by one more than a dozen individuals came forward, among them Europe minister Sir Alan Duncan to shake hands with the pontiff, including a member of the media, veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards.

As he came forward Charles said: "This is an important man, he's been following me around for 40 years."

Nearby was a table displaying the gifts and as he approached it. Charles told the Pope: "It's difficult to know what to give your holiness" and then looking at the hamper added: "Somebody else might like it."

As an aide lifted the lid of the wicker basket, jars could be seen in the straw and the prince told the pontiff: "They're all homemade things I produce."

Camilla added: "It's very good".

This is the second hamper of food the pontiff has received from the British monarchy, with the Queen giving him a wicker box of produce that included honey from Buckingham Palace and shortbread and whisky from Balmoral when the pair met in 2014.

The atmosphere between the Pope and his royal guests appeared cordial and warm with all three taking interest in the presents they received.

The Pope told the prince the bronze olive branch was a "symbol of peace" and, when he turned to his writings, bound in six red leather books and embossed with his coat of arms, he said, through the interpreter, "these are works of mine".

They shared a light moment when Charles asked if they were in English and the Pope insisted to smiles "in English".

Among the works was the pontiff's encyclical, or papal document, on ecology, Laudato Si', which states climate change is real and mainly a result of human activity.

In response to the gifts Charles said "you are very generous" and added "a great treat".

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