"Wise man of today" Michael D Higgins praised by Pope Francis
It's a big day for the President of Ireland.
President Michael D Higgins has been described as a "wise man of today" following his meeting with Pope Francis in Rome on Friday, 17 September.
President Higgins was present alongside his wife Sabina for a small gathering at The Vatican in order to discuss matters such as climate change, the environment and global inequality with the Pope.
"I'd like to thank the President for his visit," said Pope Francis.
"It is not just the President who has visited today, but a wise man who has visited me, one of the wise men of today. I thank God that Ireland has such a wise man at its head."
In response, President Higgins shook hands with Pope Francis and expressed his gratitude for the man.
"Thank you so much, for everything," he said.
You can view footage of the meeting below.
Clip via Áras an Uachtaráin
The President's papal audience comes after some debate with regards to his decision to turn down an invitation to a commemorative church ceremony in Armagh next month.
The President was asked to appear at the service alongside Queen Elizabeth in order to mark the centenaries of the partition of Ireland and the foundation of Northern Ireland.
According to RTÉ News, President Higgins told reporters that what was initially delivered as an invitation to a religious service had devolved into a political statement and thus it would be "inappropriate" for him to attend.
Higgins also underlined that he had been officially referred to as the President of the Republic of Ireland, when, in fact, he is the President of the entire State of Ireland.
It is understood that President Higgins had made the decision to distance himself from the event some time ago and that he does not regard his position as that of him snubbing the event.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to publicly address the issue shortly, with the government having previously consulted with the President on the matter.