Regep Tayyip Erdogan made the first visit by a Turkish president to see the Pope in the Vatican in 59 years on Monday as Rome was put under heavy security measures for fear of violent demonstrations, Reuters reported.
At the end of the private part of the meeting, the Pope gave Erdogan a bronze medallion showing an angel embracing the northern and southern hemispheres while overcoming the opposition of a dragon.
According to Reuters, the public part of the meeting, with reporters and Erdogan’s entourage, was cordial, although both men seemed stiff at the start while seated at the pope’s desk before journalists were ushered out.
A small, authorized demonstration of Kurds and their supporters was held outside nearby Castel Sant‘Angelo, a fortress on the banks of the River Tiber.
Some 3,500 police and security forces were on duty in Rome and authorities declared a no-go area for unauthorized demonstrations that included the Vatican, Erdogan’s hotel and Italian palaces where he is meeting the president and prime minister.
Among Erdogan’s delegation was the Mehmet Pacaci, Turkey’s ambassador to the Vatican. Erdogan recalled Pacaci to Turkey in 2015 when Francis became the head of the Roman Catholic Church and called the 1915 killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians “genocide.”
The ambassador stayed away for nearly 10 months.