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Pope meets Christian sentenced to death for faith

ROME (AP) - Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison.

The Vatican characterized the visit with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children as "very affectionate."

The 30-minute encounter took place just hours after the family landed at Rome's Ciampino airport, accompanied by an Italian diplomat who helped negotiate her release, and welcomed by Italy's premier, who hailed it as a "day of celebration."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope "thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity" during the half-hour meeting Thursday. Francis frequently calls attention to the suffering of those persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Lombardi said the presence of "their wonderful small children" added to the affectionate tone of the meeting. Ibrahim was presented with a rosary, a gift from the pope.

Ibrahim held her sleeping infant as she stepped off the plane from Sudan, which had blocked her from leaving the country even after the country's highest court overturned her death sentence in June. An Italian diplomat carried her 18-month-old son and they were followed by her husband, Daniel Wani, who is a citizen of the United States and South Sudan.

Ibrahim and her family are expected to spend a few days in Rome before heading to the United States.

Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. As in many Muslim nations, Muslim women in Sudan are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, though Muslim men can marry outside their faith.

The sentence was condemned by the United States, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others, and both the United States and Italy - a strong death penalty opponent with long ties to the Horn of Africa region - worked to win her release.

Sudan's high court threw out her death sentence in June, but she was then blocked from leaving the country by authorities who questioned the validity of her travel documents.

Lapo Pistelli, an Italian diplomat who accompanied the family from Sudan, said Italy was able to leverage its ties within the region. "We had the patience to speak to everyone in a friendly way. This paid off in the end," he said.

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tmccull52 July 24 2014 at 1:01 PM

If you need to put a face on courage and faith, look no further than Meriam Ibrahim. Congratulations to you, ma'am, for having the strength of your convictions and beliefs, and the valor to stand by them even under the threat of death.

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10 replies
palmejn July 24 2014 at 1:29 PM

How wonderful to have followed Miriam's story all these months and see this step in her journey to being a free woman! Her faith, hope, courage and determination to bring her family out of the scourge of Sharia Law is a lesson to all who value freedom and faith. Her family will be welcomed in the USA and we can only hope the lessons she can teach will change the divisiveness gripping our country. Blessings to all who helped her on this journey and to the Pope for his part in her freedom. As a non-Catholic Protestant, I believe we are seeing a new chapter in Chritianity world wide. People of ALL truly FREE faiths, be they Christian, Jewish, Buddist, or other faiths who value the individual, must come together to work for the freedom of those oppressed by inhumane laws and tortured and killed by the evils of hate and racism.

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1 reply
Kate palmejn July 24 2014 at 2:46 PM

Well put. I agree. I'm an atheist, and I have followed this story since I first heard about it. She's a very brave woman, and an example to us all.

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Greeneyes July 24 2014 at 1:05 PM

Praise God she is free.

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1 reply
smc264 Greeneyes July 24 2014 at 3:25 PM

How do we praise him for all the people being killed throughout the middle east !!

Hey Greeneyes.....he don't exist !!

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6 replies
Lito Abelardo July 24 2014 at 12:58 PM

Seldom do we find a living saint that escaped martyrdom. May God bless this family. They are examples and role models of the real christian faith.

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4 replies
rcalley1 July 24 2014 at 1:28 PM

Through GOD, not Allah, all things are possible. The World has just witnessed this. Now turn away from Islam and turn toward Jesus Christ the true and only GOD Almighty!

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11 replies
muzzie123 July 24 2014 at 1:13 PM

and Obama does nothing to help get American Pastor Saaed Abedeni out of Iranian prison for not denouncing Christ. John Kerry another POS...2 Traitors

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9 replies
curly21t July 24 2014 at 12:59 PM

She is the wife of an American citizen, what was the US doing about it. NOTHING, its only one vote !

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8 replies
charlie4562r July 24 2014 at 1:34 PM

Happy to see this family was finally able to escape from those 3rd century Muslim animals!!

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2 replies
clwgeorgetownlaw charlie4562r July 24 2014 at 1:40 PM

Safe in the arms of those midevil Christian douche bags

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3 replies
Taylor Brent charlie4562r July 24 2014 at 11:59 PM

Can't we all just get along?

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cpruitt221 July 24 2014 at 1:20 PM

We all wonder what we would do if our faith was tested this way-the convictions of her faith are evident and she is an example for us all. Muslims can be like the Nazis about wanting everyone to believe like they do.

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6 replies
clwgeorgetownlaw July 24 2014 at 1:34 PM

Why is the pope wearing a wedding dress?

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15 replies
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