Death row Christian woman flies from Sudan to Rome, meets Pope Francis

By Reuters Staff
July 24, 2014
(Pope Francis blesses Mariam Yahya Ibrahim of Sudan and her baby during a private meeting at the Vatican July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman, who was spared a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity and then barred from leaving Sudan, flew into Rome on Thursday.  REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

(Pope Francis blesses Mariam Yahya Ibrahim of Sudan and her baby during a private meeting at the Vatican July 24, 2014. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, then detained after her conviction was quashed, flew into Rome on an Italian government plane on Thursday and hours later met the Pope.

Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, whose sentence and detention triggered international outrage, walked off the aircraft cradling her baby and was greeted by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

Soon afterwards, Ibrahim, her husband and two children had a private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. “The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended as a “sign of closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith,” he added.

There were no details on what led up to the 27-year-old’s departure after a month in limbo in Khartoum, but a senior Sudanese official said it had been cleared by the government.

“The authorities did not prevent her departure that was known and approved in advance,” the senior official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ibrahim says she was born and raised as a Christian by an Ethiopian family in Sudan and later abducted by a Sudanese Muslim family.

The Muslim family denies that and filed a lawsuit to have her marriage annulled last week in a new attempt to stop her leaving the country. That case was later dropped.

Read the full story by Giselda Vagnoni and Khalid Abdel Aziz here.

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