German President Joachim Gauck has met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The two leaders discussed religion, Europe's current economic crisis and the future of the continent.
Gauck spoke on Thursday of a "very friendly" and "very open" meeting between the two. They discussed the need "for the people to keep alive the awareness of the value of the European idea" given the current economic crisis.
The meeting in the Apostolic Palace was the first between the German-born pope and the German president, who is a former Lutheran pastor.
"I come as a president, as a fellow countryman, and above all a man of God," said Gauck when he greeted the pope in front of the private library.
Religion and politics
In talks behind closed doors, the topic of conversation switched between politics and religion. The discussion centered on the impact of the economic crisis, and the role of the church and Germany within Europe.
"When two Christians meet each other, then they also speak about God," the president said.
Gauck said he was there not just to represent Protestants in Germany, but also to send a signal to the 25 million Catholics in the country.
"I have experienced something very moving today," the president said after the meeting.
Afterwards Gauck met with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
The last German president to visit the Pope was Horst Köhler three years ago. Before the meeting, Gauck visited St. Peter's Basilica and the tomb of Pope John Paul II.
dr/pfd (dpa, KNA, epd)