• Kyodo, Staff Report

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Prince Akishino, the younger son of Emperor Akihito, and his wife, Princess Kiko, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday, the Imperial Household Agency said.

It was the first audience with the pope by any members of the Imperial family since 1993, when the Emperor and Empress Michiko met Pope John Paul II, the agency said. The meeting took place at the pope’s summer residence southeast of Rome.

The meeting lasted 20 minutes, Vatican Radio reported, adding that the Holy See did not release a statement afterward as the event was private.

The prince and princess gave the pope a porcelain vase and a framed emblem of the Imperial family, the Vatican’s official radio service said. The pope gave the couple a copy of his 2015 encyclical Ladauto Si, which focuses on the environment and social development.

On Wednesday, the prince and princess were welcomed by Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the presidential palace in Rome and attended a ceremony to celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy.

They are expected to visit museums in Milan and Florence and meet with Japanese residents before returning to Japan on Tuesday, wrapping up an eight-day trip.

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