The Vatican said Pope Francis had ‘a very affectionate’ meeting with Meriam Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children.
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.
He blessed Ms Ibrahim as she held her baby daughter Maya in her arms whom she gave birth to in prison two months ago.
She was greeted at the airport by Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, his wife Agnese and Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
The mother-of-two was accompanied on the flight by Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who met with Meriam on July 3 and has been following the case closely.
He told journalists he had been in ‘constant dialogue’ with Sudan but did not give any more details on Rome’s role in securing her exit.
Mr Pistelli published a photograph on his Facebook page of himself with Ibrahim and her two children on the plane with the caption: ‘A couple of minutes away from Rome. Mission accomplished.’
The minister, who carried one of Ibrahim’s young children off the plane, said he expected her to have ‘some important meetings’ during her time in Italy.
Meriam’s stay in Italy was organised by the Italian government in collaboration with the Sudanese government.
Meriam’s case drew worldwide attention in May when she was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. A daughter of a Muslim father, Meriam was raised by her Christian mother.
ARREST, RELEASE AND REARREST: A TIMELINE OF MERIAM’S ORDEAL
2011: Meriam Meriam Ibrahim marries Daniel Wani after they meet when the American visits Khartoum.
August 2013: A relative alleges that her marriage to Wani, a Christian, constitutes adultery. Wani is accused of converting a Muslim, leading Ibrahim to also be accused of adultery.
February 17, 2014: Meriam is transferred prison with her 20-month-old son Martin and separated from her husband.
March 4: Court charges Meriam with apostasy and adultery
April 30: Meriam is convicted of all charges and is given 15 days to recant her beliefs.
May 11: She is sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging.
May 27: Meriam gives birth to a baby girl, Maya, in prison. According to her husband, Ibrahim’s legs were kept in chains while she was in labour.
June 8: A Sudanese appeals court has started deliberating on Meriam’s case.
June 23: Meriam is released from prison.
June 24: Less than 24 hours later, Meriam and her husband were arrested at a Sudanese airport as they sought to leave the country with their two children.
July 24: After intense negotiations, Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli secures the family’s release and flies to Rome with them.
She married her husband Daniel Wani, who holds American citizenship and is also a citizen of South Sudan, 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. By law, children must follow their father’s religion.
Sudan’s penal code forbids Muslims from converting to other religions, a crime punishable by death.
The court in the capital, Khartoum, had also ordered Ibrahim be given 100 lashes for having sexual relations with her husband.
When Meriam asserted that she was in fact Christian she was then accused of apostasy. Following the conviction Meriam was then forced to give birth to her daughter Maya in prison.
Since June 26 she has been staying at the American embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, according to Corriere della Sera.
Meriam’s case attracted international attention and the governments of the UK, the US and the United Nations all called for her to be freed.
Bill and Hillary Clinton were also among those demanding she be released after MailOnline highlighted her plight, as was human rights campaigner Mia Farrow.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who mentioned Ibrahim during his speech inaugurating Italy’s six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union, has also expressed his outrage.
‘If there is no European reaction we are not worthy of calling ourselves Europe,’ Renzi said.
Meriam’s arrival in the Italian capital follows a European Parliament resolution condemning her ‘degrading and inhumane treatment’ and calling for legal reforms in Sudan.
Olivia Warham, director of campaign group Waging Peace, said: ‘As we celebrate Meriam Ibrahim’s long-overdue freedom we should also remember the millions of her fellow Sudanese Christians who daily face brutality and ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese regime.
‘He has been good to his word, crushing dissent and systematically killing ethnic and religious minorities.
‘Regular aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces destroys communities and Christian hospitals, forcing people to flee from their fields to hide in the Nuba mountains.
‘It is shocking that Bashir’s ideology of elimination provokes nothing more than the occasional words of regret from the international community, when we should be applying targeted smart sanctions on the architects of these atrocities.’
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