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Sudan woman accused of apostasy meets Pope Francis

ROME--A Sudanese Christian woman whose death sentence for renouncing Islam sparked a global outcry that eventually led to an acquittal, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Italy en route to the United States.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her family were received by the Argentine pontiff at his home for a 30-minute meeting in which he thanked her for her “courageous testament of faith” and her “tenacity,” the Vatican said in a statement.

Ishag and her American husband Daniel Wani in turn thanked Francis for the “great support and comfort” they had taken from “the pope's and many other believers' prayers.”

The meeting was “a sign of closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith, in particular Christians who suffer persecution,” the Vatican added.

The 77-year-old pope gave Ishag rosary beads after an “affectionate and warm” chat about her plans in the U.S., where she is expected to fly with her family in a few days time, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

The family flew into a military airport in Rome early Thursday and were greeted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, as well as Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

“Today is a day of celebration,” Renzi said.

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, who accompanied the family on the flight to Rome, tweeted a photo of the young mother aboard the plane cradling her infant daughter as her toddler son drank from a bottle.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

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In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim from Sudan with her daughter Maya in her arms, in his Santa Marta residence, in Vatican City, Thursday, July 24.(AP

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