.- On Monday morning, Pope Benedict XVI met with the presidents of Congo and Moldova, discussing with both heads of state the presence and influence of the Catholic Church within their respective countries.
During his 13-minute meeting with Denis Sassou N'guesso, president of the Republic of Congo, the Pontiff first discussed the country's initiatives to celebrate their upcoming 50th anniversary of independence.
The two leaders then addressed their mutual desire to strengthen the positive relationship between the Holy See and the Republic of Congo, discussing more specifically the Church's influence on the human, social and cultural development of the country. Also touched on was the political situation within the region and the need for humanitarian efforts to assist refugees who have been displaced due to territorial conflict.
After the meeting, in which President N'guesso presented the Holy Father with a wooden bas relief of the Last Supper, the leader of the Republic of Congo was received by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
Also in the morning, Pope Benedict met with Mihai Ghimpu, speaker of parliament and acting president of the Republic of Moldova.
During their cordial discussion, the Holy Father expressed his hope with that difficulties of the country – a former Soviet satellite that is still occupied by Russian forces in certain regions – may be overcome through positive dialogue. The Pope reiterated the Church's mission in support of Moldova's people and the two expressed mutual appreciation for the dialogue that exists between the Church and state authorities.
Acting President Mihai Ghimpu then met with Cardinal Bertone after discussing with the Holy Father his opinions on current international affairs and the religious identity of Europe.