ROME — On Thursday Pope Francis met with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, as part of the visit returning to them a long-lost royal stick of a 16th century Dutch king.
An important diplomatic portion of the audience June 22, was the Vatican’s return of the stick of William I, Prince of Orange, which until recently had remained lost in the Jesuit Catalan archives.
The stick, which resembles a sort of scepter or baton, and depicts the coat of arms of William of Orange, was given by the 16th century Dutch royal to a Dutch commander in the Battle of Mookerheyde in 1574.
The stick was waved by William’s brother, Luigi of Nassau, during the battle.
After it was lost, it came into the hands of a Spanish general and eventually a Jesuit general, until being returned Thursday, through the Vatican, to Willem-Alexander, current King of the Netherlands and Prince of Orange.
According to a press release from the National Military Museum of the Netherlands, the delivery of the stick represents “a testimony of reconciliation, and of the current union between the two countries and religions.
“It is also a symbol of the long journey that the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, have passed from the past of rivalry, war and repression to a present of mutual respect and promotion of peace and human rights.”
The baton will be displayed to the public in the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, Netherlands from April 27 to the end of October 2018.
According to a June 22 Vatican communique, in the audience the three cordially discussed topics “of shared interest,” including protection of the environment, the fight against poverty and how the Holy See and Catholic Church are contributing in these areas.
Particular attention, it stated, was paid to “the phenomenon of migration, underlining the importance of peaceful co-existence between different cultures, and joint commitment to promoting peace and global security, with special reference to various areas of conflict.”
They also shared reflections on the prospects of the European project. The private portion of the audience, which included both the King and the Queen, lasted 35 minutes.
Queen Máxima, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, greeted Pope Francis in “porteño,” a dialect of Spanish spoken by people from the Río de la Plata basin of Argentina.
“How are you? Delighted to see you again,” she said.
During the visit Pope Francis gifted the royal couple a medallion depicting St. Martin of Tours, in the classic image of the saint dividing his cloak to give to a poor man.
He also gave them the customary gift of copies of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation on the family Amoris Laetitia,”and his 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, as well as a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace.
For their part, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima gave the pope a gift of Dutch flowers, white and yellow tulips from their country.
Giving the gifts, they told Pope Francis that tulips aren’t only for Easter, but could be planted in the Vatican.
Afterward, the two met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
The royal couple are in the midst of a state visit to the Italian Republic, taking place June 21-23.
Before their meeting with the pope, the King and Queen visited the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus, the national church of the Netherlands in Rome. Located next to the Vatican, it was built in 1140 in the place where pilgrims from the Netherlands met back in the 8th century.
According to church statistics, Catholics currently make up 23 percent of the population of 17 million in the Netherlands.