published: 25.05.2012, 15:04 | updated: 25.05.2012 15:06:08
Rome/Vatican - Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas had a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican today at the beginning of the year marking the 1150th anniversary of Christian missionaries SS Cyril and Methodius´ arrival in Great Moravia.
The celebrations including dozens of events will culminate in Velehrad, a well-known pilgrimage site in south Moravia, in July 2013. Benedict XVI has been invited to attend the celebrations, but his visit has not been confirmed as yet.
Necas handed to the Pope a copy of the rare decorated Strahov Evangeliary from the 9th century. The Pope donated a pen to Necas.
Before meeting the Pope, Necas laid flowers at the tomb of Czech Cardinal Josef Beran, who died in exile in Rome in 1969 and paid homage to Czech patron Saint Wenceslas at his altar in St Peter´s Basilica.
Then he visited St Cyril´s tomb in St Clement Basilica.
This has been the first visit by a Czech prime minister to the Vatican in three years, and Necas´s first.
Necas took over an invitation for President Vaclav Klaus who is to visit the Vatican at the end of the year, which is shortly before his second and last possible term expires in early 2013.
The Christian brothers Cyril and Methodius came to Great Moravia from the Byzantine Empire in 863 at the invitation of Moravian Duke Rostislav. Their mission influenced the development of Christianity, culture and education of all Slavic nations and laid the foundations of Czech statehood, Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka said recently.
Duka is accompanying Necas on his visit to the Vatican.
The previous time a Czech prime minister stayed in the Vatican was in 2009 when Jan Fischer, the then caretaker government head, arrived for a visit.
Benedict XVI visited the Czech Republic once in the past, four years ago.
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