Released Sudanese Christian, Meriam Ibrahim, In Italy, Receives Pope Francis Blessing

The Christian Sudanese woman who made worldwide headlines when she was jailed for not renouncing her religion a few weeks ago is now safe in Italy. On Thursday, Meriam and her family visited Pope Francis and received the Holy Father’s blessing.

Ibrahim was seen arriving in Italy and smiling broadly, while she descended the stairs of the plane that brought her, her American husband, and two young children to safety. The Sudanese woman, who was raised a Christian by her mother, was accused of apostasy — the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief — and sentenced to death and lashing by the Muslim government.

The Italian vice-minister for foreign affairs traveled on the jet — provided by the government — along with Ibrahim and her family, ending the frightening ordeal which had her giving birth to her youngest child while jailed and reportedly shackled last month. The Sudanese Christian was seen carrying her baby, as her two-year old exited the plane with an Italian official.

In a statement, the Italian Foreign Ministry said the former captive “will remain in Italy for a short time and then will travel on to the United States” to begin a new life. Her situation garnered international outcry and many human rights organizations condemned the Sudanese government, urging them to release the woman who had committed no crime, except that of being a Christian.

Authorities in Sudan had accused Meriam Ibrahim of renouncing Islam — an offense punished by death in the Sharia Law controlled African country. After marrying a Christian man, the woman was considered an adulterer as the government doesn’t recognize interfaith unions. Her conviction was overthrown last month after several foreign governments pressured the Sudanese to release Ibrahim.

Italian official Lapo Pistelli, who accompanied Ibrahim to Italy, posted a photo with her and her children on his Facebook page with the caption: “With Meriam, Maya, Martin and Daniel, in a few minutes in Rome. Mission accomplished.” The plane was greeted by several government officials, including Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who called the day “a celebration.”

After escaping certain death, the Sudanese woman had the opportunity to briefly meet with Pope Francis, in what the Vatican characterized as “very affectionate.” According to Vatican spokesman the Reverend Federico Lombardi, the pope “thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity.”

Italy had become involved in Meriam Ibrahim’s case because of their strong ties to the area, and used its leverage to win her freedom. After her release, the Sudanese Christian woman had been living at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum for her safety. She refused to renounce her faith while jailed.

[Image via Lupo Pistelli/Facebook]

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