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Pope Francis' Moving Moment With Sudanese Mother Meriam Ibrahim, Who Faced Death For Her Faith

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Pope Francis has met privately with the Sudanese woman who arrived in Italy after escaping a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith.

Tenderly blessing her with his palm on her forehead, the pontiff spoke to Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, who held her baby daughter Maya in her arms. She met with the Pope at his Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, along with her young son Martin and husband Daniel Wani. The family arrived in Italy this morning after finally being given permission to leave Sudan.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had "a very affectionate" meeting with the 27-year-old. Spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity" during the half-hour meeting.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Pope Francis in his Santa Marta residence with Meriam Ibrahim, her children Maya and Martin, and her husband, Daniel Wani at the Vatican
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Pope Francis has met privately with the Sudanese woman who arrived in Italy after escaping a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The Vatican said Pope Francis had "a very affectionate" meeting with Meriam Ibrahim
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Meriam Ibrahim married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith

Ibrahim was given a reprieve from a death sentence handed down because she refused to convert to Islam. Born to a Christian mother and Muslim father, Ibrahim was raised in her mother's faith, but under Islamic law she is considered a Muslim because of her father's religion, and a court said she had committed the capital offence of apostasy.

Pregnant at the time of her sentencing, Ibrahim gave birth to daughter Maya whilst shackled to the ground in the prison, next to her 18-month-old son Martin who was kept in the cell with her. The case caused international outcry, with thousands calling on the government to release Ibrahim.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, Sudanese Mother Sentenced To Death, Safe At Last In Italy

Sudan's government is believed to have approved her departure, after several attempts to block her leaving the country after she was given a reprieve from her death sentence last month. The government claimed that travel documents she had attempted to use were forgeries.

Ibrahim, along with her husband and two children were this morning met at Ciampino airport in Rome by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who called it a "day of celebration." Her journey to Europe had been a closely guarded secret, with no prior indication that Italy was involved in her release. Wani has US citizenship and the family is believed to be en-route to the United States.

Ibrahim's father's family, who have been the driving force behind her detention, have filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, claiming a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim, like Wani.

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