Pope meets Congo president Kabila
Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday met Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, for talks at the Vatican which focused on the central African country's security situation, reported dpa.
The pontiff received Kabila at the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square for a meeting which lasted 15 minutes.
Benedict, speaking in French, greeted Kabila and then asked him how things were in civil war-scarred Congo, to which the president replied: "A little better."
A meeting between the two had been scheduled in December 2007 but was cancelled due to a fresh outbreak of fighting in Congo, Italian news reports said.
On Thursday, the 37-year-old Congolese leader who is a Protestant Christian but whose wife is Catholic, presented Benedict with the gift of a carved wooden Madonna, representing Jesus' mother, Mary.
In return, Benedict gave Kabila a gold medallion commemorating the 81-year-old pope's pontificate.
Kabila then held separate talks with the Vatican's head of foreign relations, Archbishop Dominque Mamberti.
According to a Vatican statement, discussions centred on the situation in Congo's troubled eastern provinces of South and North Kivu
"The priority which should be given to the respect for human rights, an end to the suffering of the civilian population and the construction of a more just society was reiterated," the statement said.
Both sides also agreed that Congo's future rested on "the importance of education and training of the young, for which the Church is ready to make its contribution," it added.
Other issues discussed included the return of Church property seized by the state in previous decades, the Vatican statement said.
Earlier this month the UN Security Council welcomed what it described as Kabila's plans to disarm rebel groups and to hold talks with them aimed at bringing lasting peace to Congo.
Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is still recovering from a five- year long civil war that drew in several neighbouring countries - including Uganda and Rwanda - and killed more than four million people, mostly through disease and starvation.