VATICAN CITY (AP, JUNE 17, 2017) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Pope Francis encouraged her to work to preserve the historic Paris climate accord despite the U.S. withdrawal from it and shared her goal to "bring down walls" between countries, not build them.
Merkel and Francis met for about 40 minutes Saturday in the Apostolic Palace, focusing on the Group of 20 summit that Germany is hosting in Hamburg on July 7-8. The Vatican said the talks centered on the need for the international community to combat poverty, hunger, terrorism and climate change.
Merkel told reporters she briefed the pope on Germany's G-20 agenda, which she said "assumes that we are a world in which we want to work together multilaterally, a world in which we don't want to build walls but bring down walls."
Francis has consistently called on nations to build bridges not walls — including in reference to the border wall that the Trump administration wants to build along the U.S. border with Mexico. Merkel said Francis encouraged her to fight for international agreements, including the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to curb heat-trapping emissions.
"We know that, regrettably, the United States is leaving this accord," Merkel said. As he did when President Donald Trump visited last month, Francis gave Merkel a copy of his environmental encyclical, "Praise Be," which casts fighting climate change and caring for the environment as an urgent moral obligation.
Francis issued the encyclical ahead of the Paris climate deal in hopes of urging a global consensus on the need to change "perverse" development models that he said had enriched the wealthy at the expense of the poor and turned God's creation into an "immense pile of filth."
Francis appeared in unusually good cheer Saturday during the meeting, smiling broadly and laughing during both the formal portrait and the casual banter with Merkel. In contrast, Francis often looks glum during many formal state visits, including when Trump and his family visited.
The audience began with Francis expressing his condolences over the death of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In his formal note, Francis called Kohl a "great statesman and convinced European" who worked tirelessly for the unity of his homeland and the European continent.
Francis said he was praying that the Lord gives Kohl "the gift of eternal joy and life in heaven."