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Christian woman accused of apostasy meets with Pope Francis

A woman sentenced to death after refusing to renounce her faith fled Sudan on Thursday — and met Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Meriam Ibrahim was accused of converting to Christianity from Islam, but said that while her father was Muslim, she never had been. Ibrahim told a judge that her father had abandoned the family when she was young and she was raised by her Orthodox Christian mother. She was sentenced to death and gave birth to a daughter, Maya, while in prison. After international pressure, Sudan released Ibrahim in June, and she has been living in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum for a month.

Ibrahim traveled to the Vatican with her husband, son, and daughter, and met Pope Francis at his Santa Marta residence, the BBC reports. "The pope thanked her for her witness to faith," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said. The 30 minute meeting showed "closeness and solidarity for all those who suffer for their faith."

Ibrahim's lawyer, Mohamed Mostafa Nour, told BBC Focus on Africa that his client was "unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It's the country she was born and grew up in. But her life is in danger so she feels she has to leave." He said that two days ago, a group named Hamza made a statement that they would kill Ibrahim and anyone who helps her. Ibrahim may be gone from Sudan, but her legal troubles are not over: Last week, her father's family, claiming she is a Muslim, filed a lawsuit to get her marriage annulled.