Vatican City

Pope gets jobs-crisis debrief from Letta

'Create, safeguard employment, above all for young'

Pope gets jobs-crisis debrief from Letta

(By Denis Greenan). Vatican City, July 4 - Pope Francis got a debrief on recent moves to fight Europe and Italy's jobs crisis, especially among the young, from Italian Premier Enrico Letta during their first-ever meeting at the Vatican Thursday. In a statement issued after the "cordial" 30-minute talks, the Vatican said the two leaders discussed new job-creation schemes in Europe and Italy. Talks focused on "measures to create and safeguard employment, above all among the young," it said. Letta returned from a European Union summit last week with 1.5 billion euros and other EU-backed schemes to help tackle Italy's soaring jobless rates - 12% in general and almost 40% among the young. Overall, the summit earmarked nine billion euros to bring down jobless rates including youth unemployment of well over 50% in Greece and Spain. The Vatican statement said that, both with Pope Francis and later with Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, "the interlocutors dwelled on the social situation and the principal efforts which citizens and institutions in Italy and the European Union are making, in particular, to adopt measures to create and safeguard employment, above all youth employment". The Vatican also highlighted the "substantive contribution which Italian families and (Catholic) Church institutions are continuing to give to the stability of the Country. It added that Letta, Francis and Bertone also examined current international topics including "concerned attention" on the Middle East amid the Egypt crisis. Letta emerged from the audience to tell reporters that the story of his recent trip to the Holy Land had been a particularly "intense" moment of the meeting. The two exchanged gifts in the Vatican library after their first meeting. Letta gave the pontiff a 1571 volume of sermons by St. Thomas Aquinas. "I hope you like it. I believe you will be able to read it, not just keep it," said Letta. Pope Francis responded that it was "much appreciated". Letta also presented the pope with an olive-wood rosary from his trip to Israel this week. Pope Francis gave the premier a pen fashioned after the famous bronze canopy in St. Peter's designed by Renaissance master Gian Lorenzo Bernini. "Every signature is challenging," Letta said, drawing a smile from Pope Francis. It was their first meeting since they assumed their respective offices this year, Francis in March and Letta in April. After the meeting, Papal Secretary Alfred Xuereb said Francis would visit an immigration center off the coast of Sicily next week "to cry for the dead". "His visit is a sign to demonstrate that while the rich waste in the north, there are those in the south who leave everything behind to tempt fate and often find death". On Monday Francis is scheduled to make his first trip outside the Rome area as pontiff to the tiny island of Lampedusa, where he will celebrate Mass at an immigration center that has been a constant source of overcrowding. Migration from Northern Africa picks up in summer months as sea conditions improve. But many die while attempting the voyage, often in crammed and unsafe boats.

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