Vatican City, Jul 24, 2014 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A young Sudanese woman dismissed of a death sentence for refusing to renounce her Christian faith has arrived to Rome with her family, where they met with Pope Francis shortly after arriving.
“Pope Francis was very tender with her, her husband, who was in prison, and thanked her for her testimony,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said of the encounter in a July 24 statement.
Describing the meeting between the young family and the Roman Pontiff as “very serene and affectionate,” Fr. Lombardi explained that for him encounter, which took place in the Pope’s residence at the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, was “a gesture of closeness and solidarity for those who suffer for their faith.”
“And this goes beyond this beautiful and attentive gesture.”
In May, the 27-year-old woman was charged with abandoning Islam under Sudanese law. Because her father was a Muslim, Ibrahim was legally considered a Muslim even though her mother raised her as a Christian after her father left the family when she was 6 years old.
Despite pressure and multiple death threats, Ibrahim refused to renounce her Christian faith while in prison.
In addition to the crime of apostasy – or the abandoning of the Islamic faith – Ibrahim was also charged with adultery. Her marriage to her Christian husband was not considered valid since she was considered a Muslim.
She was to receive 100 lashes for the adultery charge and was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy.
After having her death sentence revoked by a Sudanese court June 23 due to international pressure, Ibrahim was re-arrested along with her husband at the Khartoum the next day on charges of forged documents. The entire family was detained for two days, until the new charges were dismissed.
Italian news agency Corriere della Sera reported that the family has remained in the Italian embassy of the Sudanese capitol, Khartoum, since June 26 until leaving the country on a flight that landed in Rome this morning at roughly 9:30 local time.
On board the flight along with the family was Italy’s vice minister of Foreign Affairs Lapo Pistelli, who has been following Ibrahim’s case. According to the acency, Pistelli had already met Meriam in Khartoum July 3.
The family is set to remain in Rome for a few days, after which they will depart for New York.