Merkel meets pope as parties at home try to form government

ROME (AP) — Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday with Pope Francis and toured a Jesuit-run child protection center, while back home three German parties at home held talks on forming a new government without her center-right bloc.

Merkel told reporters she talked politics, climate change and clergy sex abuse during the visit to the Vatican and a meeting at the Pontifical Gregorian University’s academic program on child protection and safe environments.

She spent some 45 minutes with the pope and received from him a small copy of the bronze Holy Door, as well as copies of his main documents.

Merkel also met with Italian Premier Mario Draghi before attending a peace prayer at the Colosseum organized by the Rome-based Sant’Egidio charity.

Merkel and her outgoing government will stay in office on a caretaker basis until a new administration is in place, a process that could take weeks or months.

On Thursday, the center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats were holding a first round of exploratory talks on forming a possible coalition. If they eventually succeed, that would send Merkel’s center-right Union bloc into opposition after a disastrous showing in Germany’s Sept. 26 election.

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