The President of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, was received in audience by Pope Francis this Saturday. After the audience, the President of West Africa and his delegation met the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Paul Gallagher.
The Vatican described the talks at the Secretariat of State in its statement as “cordial” and emphasized the good relations between the two sides. In terms of content, it was about the economic and social situation in Ivory Coast and the national reconciliation process. The important role played by Catholic schools and health facilities was also mentioned. Regional security aspects in West Africa and the Sahel were also discussed.
Ouattara was last in 2012 in a papal audience, then with Benedict XVI. At the time, Ouattara was new to office, having won his first election, narrowly winning a months-long power struggle with international support against his rival Laurent Gbagbo. About 3,000 people died in the disputed presidential election in unrest that brought the country to the brink of civil war. In 2015, a process of “national reconciliation” began in Côte d’Ivoire with extensive amnesty for Ouattara’s political opponents.
In the current papal audience, Ouattara also came to the Vatican some time later after a controversial election. At the end of 2020, he ran for president for the third time against a ban in his country’s constitution and won. The election was boycotted by the opposition and finally recognized.
Ouattara is 80 years old and Muslim, his second wife, Dominique Ouattara (68), a business woman born in France, is Catholic. She accompanied her husband to the audience in the Vatican this Saturday.
(kna/vatican news – mg)