The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Alain Berset and the Pope exchange views on peacebuilding

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 10 November 2023

The President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset, was received by Pope Francis for a private audience on Thursday. According to the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), the exchange focused on peacebuilding. Berset and Francis also discussed the situation in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Alain Berset and the Pope exchange views on peacebuilding
Switzerland President Alain Berset, and his wife Muriel Zeender Berset are welcomed by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, right, as they arrive at the St. Damaso courtyard ahead of their private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. (KEYSTONE/AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The FDHA also addressed the reappraisal of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland. The Federal Council expects the Catholic Church to conduct a swift and thorough investigation and to take effective measures against abuse in the future. President Berset has reaffirmed this.

Following up on conversations

Berset discussed with Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin how Switzerland and the Holy See could work together on peace efforts, for example in Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The talks followed on from discussions that Berset had held with local representatives of the Church in both countries, as the FDHA notes.

The prospects for the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai were also a topic of the exchange. The question of what Switzerland, the Vatican and the international community need to do to meet the challenge of climate change was discussed.

The meeting at the Secretariat of State was cordial, according to a statement from the Vatican. There was talk of good relations between the Holy See and the Swiss Confederation. It is hoped that mutual cooperation in areas of common interest will increase.

Memories of a hot day in Geneva

As a gift, Berset presented the Pope with a copy of a weather bulletin dating back over 100 years, namely that of July 29, 1921, an unusually hot day in Geneva at the time. The heat is said to have inspired the Vaudois writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz to write his work “Présence de la mort”, published in 1922.

“What was once unusual is now normal,” was written on the card accompanying the gift, as reported by the Italian news agency Ansa. The Pope presented Berset with a bronze sculpture entitled “Amore sociale”. The sculpture depicts a child helping another to stand up. The audience for Berset took place on Thursday morning and lasted around twenty minutes.

The visit of the President of the Swiss Confederation to the Pope is a tradition and was actually planned for last May, a spokesperson for the FDHA told the Keystone-SDA news agency on request. However, the visit had to be postponed due to the coronation of Charles III in London.

It was not Berset’s first meeting with Francis. In 2018, Berset’s first year as President of the Swiss Confederation, he also visited the Pope. And back in 2015, at the swearing-in ceremony for new Swiss Guards, Berset and the Pope had already shaken hands.

Onward journey to Paris

From Rome, Berset travelled on to Paris on Thursday to attend the 42nd General Assembly of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the same day, followed by the Paris Peace Forum. The “One Planet – Polar Summit” for the protection of glaciers and the polar regions will also take place under the umbrella of the Peace Forum.

©Keystone/SDA

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