28 APRIL 2009

When Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Vatican this week to meet with Pope Benedict XVI, the heir to the throne and the Catholic Pontiff realised they had a lot in common in terms of their interest in ecological issues.

Their discussions "provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on certain questions of mutual interest including... environmental protection," revealed a papal spokesperson.

Charles – who on Monday gave a speech to Italian MPs warning about climate change - has campaigned tirelessly for eco causes for many years. And the German pontiff has spoken out frequently on green issues, including erosion, deforestation and the depletion of the world's resources.

It's not the first time the 60-year-old royal has enjoyed an audience with the head of the Vatican. He met Pope Benedict's predecessor John Paul II in 1985 with his first wife Princess Diana.

Like Diana, Camilla was required to wear a long-sleeved black dress with a traditional lace veil as a mark of respect. Onlookers said the divorcee looked somewhat nervous, but relaxed visibly after being greeted warmly by the 82-year-old. In a break from tradition the Duchess joined Charles and Benedict XVI for their private audience.

The royal couple - who were due to spend two days in Rome as part of an official tour before travelling to Germany on Tuesday - finished by exchanging gifts. Charles said he was "touched" after the pontiff gave them with a medal and drawing of St Peter's Basilica.

In return, the Prince and his wife presented the Pope with a set of plates with paintings of plants from the Prince's Highgrove Estate on them.

Next on the agenda for the Pope is a trip to central Italy to visit survivors of the April 6 earthquake. He will travel to a number of areas effected and say prayers for the 300 people who lost their lives.

Photo: Rex
During the royal couple's visit to the Vatican, the heir-to-the throne and the Pontiff shared "views on certain questions of mutual interest including... environmental protection," said a Vatican spokesperson. In a break from tradition the Duchess of Cornwall was invited to attend her husband's private audience with the Pope
Photo: Rex
The 60-year-old royal checks out the view over the Forum towards the Coliseum. He and Camilla are spending two days in Rome before travelling to Germany
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