By Josephine McKenna and Hannah Strange
Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was spared a death sentence for apostasy and then barred from leaving Sudan, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Rome to jubilant scenes following intense international efforts to free her.
Ms Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani thanked the pontiff for his support and he in turn thanked her for staying true to her Christian faith despite the threat of execution if she did not recant.
The 27-year-old was flown to Italy in a government aircraft and landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her family and Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, who flew to Sudan to collect her late on Wednesday.
She was released after intense diplomatic negotiations from the Italian government and the Vatican ended an ordeal that lasted almost a year.
“Today we are happy, this is a day of celebration,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said as he greeted Ms Ibrahim and her family with his wife Agnese.
“This gesture by Sudan is testimony to the friendship between our country and Italy’s choice to be a protagonist in this event,” said Mr Pistelli.