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Sudanese Death Row Mother Meriam Ibrahim Freed at Last, Honored by Pope Francis Before Departing for America

( [email protected] ) Jul 24, 2014 02:58 PM EDT

Meriam Ibrahim and Pope Francis
OSSERVATORE ROMANO / HANDOUT / EPA

Meriam Ibrahim and her husband met with Pope Francis in the Vatican Thursday after being escorted from Sudan by the Italian minister for foreign affairs. Ibrahim's husband is a United States citizen, and her family plans to fly to America after their stay in Rome.

Meriam Ibrahim was accused of apostasy and charged with adultery for marrying Daniel Wani, a Christian man from South Sudan. Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashings and death earlier this year under Islamic law because she would not renounce her Christian faith. Because she was pregnant, Ibrahim's sentence was delayed until the birth of her second child. Meanwhile, an international uproar arose over her plight and the Sudanese government eventually decided to free her after her daughter was born.

Ibrahim's exit from Sudan was hindered by authorities because she used Southern Sudanese paperwork to help her exit the country quickly, and a man claiming to be her brother was outraged that she had been released from prison. Ibrahim and her family took refuge at the United States Embassy in June after receiving death threats, and were recently allowed to leave the country.

Ibrahim's first stop upon leaving Sudan was Rome, Italy where she was able to meet Pope Francis this morning. The Telegraph reports that Italy's deputy minister for foreign affairs had flown to Sudan to negotiate with the Sudanese government and to retrieve the family.

Ibrahim and her husband thanked the Pope for his support, and he in turn told them he was encouraged by their steadfast faith in the midst of harsh persecution. The Daily Beast reports that the family plans to travel to America after their stay in Rome, where Ibrahim can apply for U.S. Citizenship.