President Michael D Higgins is a 'wise man of today' says Pope Francis
POPE Francis has described President Michael D Higgins as a "wise man of today" during an audience in the Vatican.
Today saw the fourth meeting between the two men and their conversation touched on issues including climate change, environment and global inequality.
The President was accompanied to the Vatican by his wife, Sabina Higgins, and by Ireland’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Derek Hannon.
"Today, I did not just meet a man, the president, I met a wise man of today," the Pontiff said afterwards.
"I thank God that Ireland has such a wise man as its head."
The Republic's head of state - who is on a four-day trip to Rome - presented to the Pope a `Bata Iascaire' made on Inis Mór by artist Lochlainn Cullen from blackthorn stick woven with special cotton, using knots drawn from fishing.
The St Mary's Hitch spiral features three interwoven strands representing the divine trinity.
A statement issued by the Vatican said that after the audience with the Pope, President Higgins met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
"During the cordial talks, various matters of mutual interest were discussed, such as migration and the protection of the environment, with particular attention to the prospects of the 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26), to take place in Glasgow.
"There was also a joint reflection on the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the future of Europe, focusing finally on the theme of the strengthening of the peace process in the country."