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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Canadian PM lauds Pope's leadership after meeting at Vatican

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a private audience and exchanged gifts with Pope Benedict XVI July 11, 2009 at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY – Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Pope Benedict XVI as a moral and humanitarian leader after a private audience at the Vatican yesterday.

"It was an honour to meet Pope Benedict and hear his perspective on a number of important issues, including human rights and an ethical response to the global economic crisis," Harper said in a written release.

"I expressed my deep appreciation for the Holy Father's moral and humanitarian leadership as an advocate of human dignity, peace and religious liberty, and for the spiritual leadership he provides to Catholics in Canada and throughout the world."

Harper's wife, Laureen, and his children Ben and Rachel joined the Prime Minister and the pontiff after the private audience. The family later viewed the tomb of John Paul II and the ancient tomb of St. Peter.

It was reported earlier that the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper accepted and ate a communion wafer at a Catholic mass and didn't pocket it as critics have alleged, according to his spokesman.

Harper, a devout Protestant, attended last week's state funeral for Canada's former governor general, Romeo LeBlanc, during which a Catholic priest offered him a communion host.

Television images, some of which have been posted on YouTube, showed Harper receiving the host. The camera remained on the premier for several seconds but it did not show him actually place the wafer into his mouth.

A priest holds a Holy Communion wafer

"At the end of the service, he was offered communion. He accepted communion and he consumed it," Dimitri Soudas said Wednesday, quoted by Canadian media.

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