German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Meet With Pope Francis for the Fifth Time

The most frequent head of state to visit Pope Francis during his pontificate, Merkel and Francis both have a high regard for each other and agree on a number of political issues.

Pope Francis meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the Vatican on June 17, 2017. He is scheduled to meet with her for the fifth time on Oct. 7.
Pope Francis meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the Vatican on June 17, 2017. He is scheduled to meet with her for the fifth time on Oct. 7. (photo: © Vatican Media/L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will receive in private audience outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the fifth time next Thursday, making her the most frequent head of state to visit Francis during his pontificate.

The two leaders are said to have a close and friendly relationship, seeing eye to eye on a number of political issues, especially migration, the fight against poverty and intergovernmental efforts to combat climate change. 

Merkel will voluntarily step down in the coming weeks after serving 16 years as chancellor, following Germany’s federal election on Sept. 26 that led to no clear result but is likely to lead to a three-party coalition government.  

She last met the Pope in private audience in June 2017 just weeks before that year’s general election, thereby breaking an unwritten rule that papal audiences or visits with political leaders not take place during election campaigns. Merkel’s CDU party went on to win that election in September, taking 33% of the vote.

Speaking to reporters after that meeting, Merkel said that Pope Francis had encouraged her to work to maintain the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on combatting climate change, following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the accord. 

Merkel had expressed her frustration at President Trump’s decision at an intergovernmental meeting a week earlier, calling it “deeply regrettable” and adding, “We need this Paris accord to preserve our creation. Nothing can and will stop us.” 

President Joe Biden returned the U.S. to the Paris climate accord just hours after his inauguration in January, encouraged in no small part by Pope Francis. 

Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, and the Pope have long had a mutual esteem for one another despite a minor rift in 2014 when he upset her for comparing Europe to a “barren woman.” After their 2017 meeting, they both spoke of a shared aim to “bring down walls” rather than build new ones, and among his gifts to her was a German edition of his 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si (Care for Our Common Home). 

More recently, in a Sept. 1 interview, Pope Francis described Merkel as “one of the world’s greatest political figures” before mistakingly attributing a quote to her on Afghanistan that actually came from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Francis has also admired the German chancellor’s approach to migrants and fighting poverty. Merkel also had a similar approach to Francis regarding China, drawing almost identical criticism for being reluctant to take a tougher stance towards the communist country over human rights abuses, and instead placing greater priority on cooperation than values. 


Merkel’s Other Rome Appointments

As well as meeting the Holy Father, Merkel will have lunch with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and then take part in the closing event of this year’s Meeting of Prayer for Peace held by the Sant’Egidio Community in Rome. 

The Oct. 6-7 meeting, the 35th of its kind after the peace meeting convened by Pope St. John Paul II in 1986 in Assisi, is on the theme “Peoples as Brothers, Future Earth — Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” 

Pope Francis, who will address the meeting on Oct. 7 at the Colosseum, will join Merkel and other speakers at the event, including Jeffrey Sachs, a population control advocate, China apologist, and regular consultant to the Vatican and the U.N. on sustainable development; Noubar Afeyan, chairman and co-founder of Moderna, one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine producers; and French political scientist Olivier Roy, who rejects radical Islamism as a product of Islam and believes jihadi terrorism is only loosely connected to Islamic fundamentalism.     

Also speaking at the meeting will be Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, a longstanding member of the Sant’Egidio Community, Portuguese Cardinal José Tolentino Mendonça, archivist and librarian of the Holy Roman Church, Justin Welby, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Rabbi David Rosen, head of the American Jewish Committee, and Mohamed Eldwainy, deputy to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. 

Many of the interreligious leaders will also be in Rome for an Oct. 4 interreligious meeting at the Vatican on the environment. Called “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” the initiative aims to bring together religious leaders and scientists to consider the theme of climate change and the need for global commitment to the care of creation. 

The event is being promoted by the Embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See, along with the Holy See.