During a 40-minute meeting Saturday, President Lenin Moreno and Pope Francis focused on ways to protect the Amazon basin which Ecuador shares with six other South American countries.
Moreno, who is on the first European trip of his presidency, is visiting with officials of several countries, and has met with groups of Ecuadorian migrants in Spain and Italy.
“Preserving the Amazon and the indigenous people who live there is a subject of special interest for the Pope,” Moreno said after the meaning. “He is a student of the environment and understands the importance of the region to the entire world. He understands the consequences of the damage that has been inflicted in recent decades,” he added.
In October, Francis called special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region for the purpose of protecting the Amazon and has pushed South American governments to strengthen environmental regulations in the area. “This is critically important for the Pope,” Moreno said. “He is bringing political as well as religious pressure to bear on the issue.”
During his meeting with the Pope, Moreno discussed Ecuador’s efforts for protecting the Amazon and the indigenous communities who live there. He also talked about a question on the forthcoming national referendum that will provide permanent protection for a large area of rain forest.
At the beginning of the visit, Francis gave Moreno a sculpture of an olive tree, a gift he presents to all visiting world leaders. “I give this to them to remind them that world peace is their most important responsibility,” he said.
In return, Moreno gave the pope a box of Ecuadorian chocolates and Panama hat.