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Pope Francis with Italian abortionist Emma Bonino

November 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis received former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Emma Bonino on Tuesday in a private audience in the Vatican.

This meeting was confirmed by Greg Burke, spokesperson of the Holy See Press Office, who said the meeting was focused “mostly on the topics of the influx of migrants, of welcoming migrants, and their integration.”

The visit comes as a shock to those who know about Bonino’s past and her involvement with abortion initiatives. Bonino had an illegal abortion at age 27 and then worked with the Information Center on Sterilization and Abortion, which has performed more than 10,000 abortions. There are widely circulated photos of Bonino performing illegal abortions using a homemade device operated by a bicycle pump, as LifeSiteNews has reported.

In February, Pope Francis praised the radical activist in an interview with the Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera. He compared her to great historical figures such as Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman. The Pope said she offered the best advice to Italy for learning about Africa; and, while admitting that she thinks “differently from us,” he countered that “we have to look at the people, at what they do.”

When she was appointed as Italy’s foreign minister in 2013, there was a general outcry from life and family leaders at the appalling situation of her rise to a position of international power.

Responding to the Pope’s praise of Bonino, pro-life leaders in Italy expressed disbelief. In February, Luca Volonte, an Italian politician and president of the pro-life Novae Terrae Foundation, told LifeSiteNews he believed the Pope “was not really informed about how much Mrs. Bonino has done in Italy and at the international level to promote abortion and euthanasia.”

Volonte might be right, yet it seems unlikely that during a span of eight months that nobody informed Pope Francis about her past — information open for easy public access.

The history of Pope Francis and Bonino indeed goes further back. In her capacity as Italian foreign minister, Bonino, along with President Georgio Napolitano and his key ministers, were granted an audience with Pope Francis on June 8, 2013. In April 2014, Bonino called Pope Francis to help end the hunger strike of Radical Party leader Marco Pannella. The Pope made the call and promised to join Pannella in his bid to better conditions in Italian prisons.  In May 2015, the Vatican Insider reported that Pope Francis personally invited Bonino to an audience in Paul VI Hall.

A connection might be the March for Amnesty, Justice, and Freedom, in which Bonino participated only two days before the meeting. Possibly another reason to meet Bonino was a wish from the Pope for her well-being after recently having overcome lung cancer, as Bonino recently announced to the media.