Pope Francis met with the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Vatican Saturday, the first meeting ever between the heads of the Catholic and Mormon churches.
The occasion for the meeting was the dedication of a massive new Mormon temple in Rome, the first in the Eternal City, which will take place on Sunday.
On Saturday morning, Pope Francis granted an audience to the president of the Latter-Day Saints, Russell Nelson, along with the 14 elders who make up the church’s top leadership, comprising the First Counselor, Second Counselor, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The newly finished 156-foot high edifice — officially called “Temple of Rome” — was opened to the public for just over two weeks, with guided tours offered from January 28 through February 16. Once the temple is formally dedicated Sunday, entry will be “reserved for faithful members of the Church,” the group’s website states.
The Mormon Church boasts some 5,000 members in Rome, with a total of 23,000 throughout the Italian peninsula. The Temple of Rome, under construction for nearly ten years, is the first temple of the Latter-Day Saints to be built in Italy, which may well explain the presence of the entire Mormon leadership for its inauguration Sunday — the first time the entire leadership of the church has ever gathered outside the United States.
The Temple of Rome is the 162nd operating temple of the LDS church worldwide and the 12th in Europe. The three-story edifice, encompassing almost 4,000 square meters, is part of a religious and cultural center spread over 15 acres, which includes a multi-purpose building, a visitor center, a family history library, and a guest house.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was officially established in 1830 by Joseph Smith.
According to David A. Bednar, who presides over the Church’s Temple and Family History Department, the Mormons “have more than sixteen million members, and the Church is recognized and is present in over 170 nations.”
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