Youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. Bernice King meets with Pope Francis on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Monday, March 12, 2018.
Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
Photo: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

Bernice King has private audience with Pope Francis in Vatican City

Vatican meeting comes 53 years after her father met with John Paul VI

Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., met this week with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican. 

The meeting comes 53 years after Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. were received at the Vatican by Pope John Paul VI.

But in a sign of the time, after the meeting Bernice King tweeted about it, simply calling the meeting “#lifechanging." 


Bernice King was in Rome to receive an international prize recognizing women involved in nonviolence and peace initiatives. 

 “I was both humbled and honored to sit with Pope Francis in his private library at Apostolic Palace where he expressed his great admiration for my father,” King said. “We discussed the importance of Dr. King’s nonviolence being taught to all children around the world and I was able to share with him my deep belief that he was chosen by God during this time of division, polarization and conflict in the world to be a moral voice and an example of humility that is so needed in leadership today.” 

King, the CEO of the King Center, also personally thanked the Pope for extensively quoting her father throughout his 2015 visit to the United States and in his 2016 letter to the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Pope Francis, whose reign as pope has been marked by his less formal approach to the papacy like living in a Vatican guest house instead of the palatial quarters, has long been an admirer of Martin Luther King Jr. 

During a 2015 address to Congress, he listed King among four Americans who “offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality.” 

“I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery 50 years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his ‘dream’ of full civil and political rights for African Americans,” the Pope told Congress. “That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of ‘dreams.’ Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.” 

In her meeting, Bernice King presented the pontiff with the sixth volume of her father’s published papers, "Advocate of the Social Gospel, September 1948-March 1963." 

“My visit with Pope Francis will always remain a memorable day in the history of my life and gave me great hope that together we CAN win with love for humanity,” Bernice King said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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