A Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for being a Christian has finally flown to Italy with her husband and children, and has received a personal blessing from Pope Francis.
reports that Meriam Ibrahim, found guilty of apostasy for her supposed renunciation of Islam in favor of her Christian faith, arrived in Rome with her husband and children and was whisked to Pope Francis' Domus Santa Marta Vatican residence.
World condemnation poured down on the government of Sudan when, under harsh Sharia law, Ibrahim, 27, was condemned to the gallows. She also was convicted of adultery on May 15 for marrying her husband, Daniel Wani, an American citizen and Christian.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN
that the Pope thanked her for her "courageous witness to perseverance in the faith."
Facing her unforgiving Sharia judges on the day of her sentencing, CNN reports Meriam told them, "I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian."
Worldwide, her supporters rejoiced when Meriam and her family landed safely at Rome's Ciampino Airport. Emily Clarke, whose change.org petition
generated over a million responses, wrote, "Thanks to our voices, a young mother and her children have been freed from prison, and we have stood together to protect the right of religious freedom."
Meriam's father, a Muslim who had deserted his family, filed complaints with the court in Sudan when she married, triggering Meriam's trip to a Sudanese death row, and has even filed suit in Sudan seeking to annul her marriage, according to the BBC.
Meriam insisted she had never been a Muslim and was raised by her Christian mother.
She did not want to leave her homeland of Sudan but her attorney, Mohamed Mostafa Nour, told the BBC, "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."
In June, the Sudanese government bowed to international pressure, tossed out the verdict and allowed her to leave. However, she was again detained and found refuge in the U.S. Embassy, where Italy's deputy minister for foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, collected her and her family for the flight to Rome, the Telegraph reported.
She was eight months pregnant when she was arrested, gave birth to her daughter Maya in prison and has stated that Maya is disabled because she was forced to give birth while her legs were chained. She also has a son, Martin, 18 months old.
The family plans to remain in Italy for a few days and then travel to the United States.
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