.- On Friday morning Pope John Paul received in audience Jose Maria Aznar, President of the Spanish government, accompanied by his wife and an entourage.
During his brief remarks to Aznar, the Pope expressed his joy at having received him along with his family, as this is his last visit to the pontiff as the president of government after eight years in office.
“During this period,” he said, “we have had the opportunity to meet on diverse occasions, the last of which was during my apostolic trip to Spain last May.”
“On that memorable occasion –the Pope continued, - I was able to recognize the deep Christian roots of the Spanish people and the dynamism of the Church in your noble country.”
“These two qualities have marked the most brilliant moments of your history, and with them the new generations will be able to embark upon an ever-more promising future,” he continued.
After the audience with John Paul II, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, received President Aznar.
The Pope and Aznar spent 17 minutes in private. According to an official press release, “in a very cordial conversation, the Pope and President Aznar spoke about Europe. The Holy Father expressed appreciation for the position of the president of the Spanish government particularly on the question of the recognition of the historical Christian roots of Europe.”
“The conversation extended to the topics of the current situations in the world, especially in the Middle East.”
Vatican title for Aznar’s wife
During the encounter with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano bestowed the title of Dame of the Order of Pius IX (“Ordine Piano”) upon President Aznar’s wife, Ana Botella, in recognition of her social and charitable initiatives.