Elder Ballard recalled, "We were treated wonderfully well. … Bishop Weigand came and gave us a hug. … Bishop Niederauer and, of course, John Wester, who now is a very dear, close friend."
Elder Ballard traveled in September to Rome and the Vatican, visiting with Cardinal Levada.
Archbishop Niederauer said he received a call before the trip. "Elder Ballard called and talked about what are some things we should see, what are some things it would be good for us to do? Those are relationships, but they're close and I think we became trusted and trusting friends."
Elder Ballard said, "It was a great experience, really, to meet a lot of people in the Vatican — significant leaders of the Catholic Church there as we had a chance to build those relationships right at the Vatican itself."
Weeks later, President Monson traveled to Rome to break ground for a new Mormon temple. Leaders of the Italian government and Catholic Church were guests.
"We cannot pretend there are not differences, but we can recognize that what is in common is much stronger than what is different," Archbishop Niederauer said.
"You know, it's really a privilege to be good friends," said Elder Ballard. "And we need to stand together on that and we've been doing that for many years with the Catholic Church. That's what the Lord Jesus Christ would want us to do."
Elder Ballard and Archbishop Niederauer each expressed very strong feelings about freedom of religion, saying this has become a very important issue of our day.
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