Merkel meets pope, Draghi in farewell visit to Rome

Vatican City (AFP) –


German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed climate change and clerical abuse with Pope Francis Thursday in a farewell trip to Rome that included talks with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Merkel, who is bowing out after 16 years in power, also visited St Peter's Basilica and will lunch at a restaurant in central Rome before giving a speech at a peace conference at the Colosseum.

She was honoured with a ceremonial welcome by the Swiss Guards at the Vatican before meeting and exchanging gifts with the pope, whom she has met several times before.

She said afterwards they discussed climate change -- an issue on which Francis has been outspoken -- and the sexual abuse by children of clergy, a problem that has rocked the Catholic Church in Germany and elsewhere.

"We had important discussions about child abuse," Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, told reporters.

"I wanted to underline with my visit that we think that the truth must come to light, and the topic must be dealt with."

Earlier, Merkel visited the site of a new institute within the Vatican's Gregoriana university dedicated to child protection and met with Hans Zollner, the Vatican's leading expert on measures to safeguard minors.

She was later due to meet with Draghi, with whom she has worked closely for years, notably when he was head of the European Central Bank -- and where they did not always see eye-to-eye.

Merkel will stay on in a caretaker capacity as her successors haggle over forming a coalition.

The two kingmaker parties' decision sends the CDU-CSU bloc closer to the opposition, in a major shift for the country after a decade and a half of Merkel's centre right-led government.