By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
ROME, ITALY (ANS) -- Meriam Ibrahim is free at last. She arrived in Rome, Italy, today (Thursday, July 24), with her family, after being spared a death sentence for renouncing Islam.
Meriam and her baby are prayed for by the Pope
Ms. Ibrahim disembarked from the plane carrying two-month-old baby Maya in her arms with her son Martin, 18 months, and her husband who has US citizenship.
Meriam, her husband, Daniel Wani, a US citizen, and their two children, had been housed in the US Embassy in Khartoum for more than a month, after an appeal court freed her following global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.
One of the first thing that happened after they arrived at Rome International Airport, was they were whisked off to meet Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence at the Vatican.
"The Pope thanked her for her witness to faith," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi was quoted as saying.
The meeting, which lasted around half an hour, was intended to show "closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith," he added.< /p>
A happy Meriam arrives at Rome Airport
Welcoming her at the airport, Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: "Today is a day of celebration."
According to the BBC, Meriam Ibrahim looked "relieved" as she arrived at Rome airport
The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says there was no prior indication of Italy's involvement in the case.
Lapo Pistelli, Italy's vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs. Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.
"Mission accomplished," he wrote.
A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.
Mrs. Ibrahim's lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Afr ica that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.
Mrs Ibrahim traveled with her husband,
"But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave. Just two days ago a group called Hamza made a statement that they would kill her and everyone who helps her," he added.
Mrs. Ibrahim's husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, is from South Sudan and has US nationality.
Their daughter Maya was born in prison in May, shortly after Mrs. Ibrahim was sentenced to hang for apostasy - renouncing one's faith.
Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June.
In June, Meriam spoke to the BBC as she entered the US embassy, as Reeta Chakrabarti reports: "She was given South Sudanese travel documents but was arrested at Khartoum airport, with Sudanese officials saying the travel documents were fake.
"These new charges meant she was not allowed to leave the country but she was released into the custody of the US embassy in Khartoum."
Last wee k, her father's family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.
But now she is free at last and will need lots of prayer and support to start living again after a terrible nightmare caused by members of her own alleged family who acted in what many believe was a reprehensible and spiteful way.