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Pope receives Spain's new royal couple for first time

AFP , Monday 30 Jun 2014
Spain
Pope Francis meets King Felipe VI of Spain and and Queen Letizia of Spain, during a private audience in the pontiff's private library at the Vatican, Monday, 30 June, 2014. (Photo:AP)
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Pope Francis received the new King of Spain Felipe VI and his glamorous ex-newsreader wife Queen Letizia at the Vatican on Monday, on their first foreign trip since taking the throne.

Felipe, 46, who was sworn in two weeks ago, invited the Argentine pontiff to Spain during what the Vatican described as "cordial discussions" between the heads of state.

Francis left the offer unanswered, though he did tell Letizia he hoped "to see you again soon".

While the former Olympic yachtsman was dressed in a dark blue suit, his 41-year-old wife wore white -- a privilege reserved to Catholic queens, as protocol has it that all other women who are received by the pope wear black.

Asked by the 77-year-old pope how his first weeks as king were going, Felipe said they were "intense, but serene", according to a pool of journalists present at the start of the visit.

The king said he hoped Francis would be able to visit Spain for the fifth centenary of the birth of Saint Teresa on March 28 next year.

According to a Vatican statement, the talks -- which took place in the papal library and lasted 40 minutes -- "focused on themes of common interest and the importance of promoting dialogue and collaboration between the Church and the State for the good of all Spanish society."

It hoped the visit "may mark the strengthening of the existing good relations between the Holy See and Spain."

Spain is historically a Roman Catholic country, but Felipe broke with tradition by not having a religious ceremony to mark his swearing-in.

The Vatican trip was not the couple's first audience with Francis, whose investiture they attended in March last year.

They had an audience with the late Pope Jean Paul II in 2004 for a blessing shortly after their marriage, and another with his successor Benedict XVI in 2011.

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