* Pope and Merkel spoke for unusually long 45 minutes
* Merkel flew to Rome just to see pope
* Francis recently issued strong call for financial reform
By James Mackenzie
VATICAN CITY, May 18 German Chancellor Angela
Merkel met Pope Francis on Saturday and, apparently responding
to his criticism of a heartless "dictatorship of the economy",
called for stronger regulation of financial markets.
On Thursday, Francis appealed in a speech for world
financial reform, saying the global economic crisis had made
life worse for millions in rich and poor countries.
Merkel visited Rome for a few hours specifically to meet the
pontiff and spoke with him privately in his library for 45
minutes, unusually long for a private papal audience.
She told reporters afterwards that the scandals and excesses
criticised by Francis earlier in the week showed that vital
checks and balances had not been functioning properly.
"Crises have blown up because the rules of the social market
have not been observed," she said, adding that tightening
financial market regulation would be a main objective of the
meeting of leaders of Group of 20 economic powers in September.
"We have made progress but we are nowhere near a point where
we could say that the kind of derailment that leads to market
crises could not happen again and so the issue will again play a
central role at the G20 meeting this year," she said.
"It is true that economies are there to serve people and
that has by no means always been the case in recent years."
Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran minister, said she and
Francis had spoken mainly about globalisation, the European
Union and the role of Europe in the world.
"Pope Francis made it clear that we need a strong, fair
Europe and I found the message very encouraging," said Merkel,
head of the Christian Democratic Union, which has a strong
In his first major speech about finance since his election
in March, Francis had also urged states to take greater control
of their economies and protect the weakest.
Merkel, who grew up in communist East Germany before the
country was re-unified, said both she and Francis had "lived
under dictatorships", referring to the military junta that ruled
the pope's native Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Merkel gave Francis, who lived briefly in Germany when he
was a Jesuit priest, three volumes of poetry by Friedrich
Hölderlin and 107 CDs of music by German conductor and composer
"I don't know if you will have the time to listen to all of
them," she joked as she gave him the music.