Pope Francis and Robert Mugabemet on Sunday during a ceremony in Rome to make saints of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II
The ageing Zimbabwean president, who was with his wife Grace, was among a number of heads of state to attend the ceremony. He is barred from entering the European Union because of alleged human rights abuses and vote rigging at home, but the ban does not apply to Vatican City, which is not a member of the EU.
President Mugabe, who describes himself as a committed Catholic, also attended Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass last year, following his election by cardinals in the secret conclave held in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. He also came to Rome for Pope John Paul’s funeral in 2005 and for his beatification in 2011.
Last year, the EU suspended sanctions against 81 officials and eight firms in Zimbabwe, following what it described as a “peaceful” referendum on a new constitution. However, sanctions remain in place against Mr Mugabe himself, partly at Britain’s insistence.