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Monday, 18 May 2009

The President visited Italy and the Vatican

After arriving in Italy on Sunday evening, the President and the First Lady met with veterans of the Polish II Corps during the official reception event held in the gardens of the Polish embassy in Rome.

On Monday morning, Lech Kaczyński went to a meeting with Giorgio Napolitano, the President of Italy. The subject of their discussions was the state of relations between Poland and Italy. The most important issues discussed pertained to the economic and cultural cooperation of Poland and Italy, as well as the joint activity of the two countries within the EU that would promote the open-door policy with regard to the Western Balkans, Georgia and Ukraine.

After the discussions had finished, the President went to Monte Cassino where he took part in the commemorations of the 65th anniversary of the famous battle. The commemorations consisted of a holy mass, an ecumenical prayer, speeches delivered by Lech Kaczyński and a representative of the veterans, a reading of the roll of the dead and the laying of wreaths.

On Monday, during his audience with Benedict XVI, the President talked with the Pope face to face for more than fifteen minutes. Lech Kaczyński invited the Pope to visit Poland again “whenever he finds it convenient.” An exchange of gifts took place during the audience – the President gave Benedict XVI a counterpart of Psałterz Floriański of the 14th century, written in Latin, Polish and German and the Pope gave Lech Kaczyński a golden medal of his pontificate. Lech Kaczyński was accompanied by his wife, Maria. After the audience with the Pope was over, Lech Kaczyński, together with his wife and members of the Polish delegation, went to the Vatican Grottoes beneath the Basilica of Saint Peter where they prayed by the tomb of John Paul II.

By the end of his two-day stay in Rome, the President visited the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta. He decorated Matthew Festing with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. After a formal supper held in his honour by the Grand Master, Lech Kaczyński returned to Poland.

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