Pope Francis received an audience with President Mattarella on Dec. 16, 2021. / Vatican Media

Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent birthday greetings to Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Saturday and thanked him for his dedicated service amid “not a few difficulties.”

In a personal telegraph sent to the Quirinal Palace on July 23, the pope offered Mattarella his best wishes for the president’s 81st birthday and expressed his “personal esteem” for the leader.

“At this particular juncture, marked by not a few difficulties and crucial choices for the life of the country, you continue to make a fundamental and indispensable contribution with gracious leadership and exemplary dedication,” Pope Francis said.

The pope’s telegram was sent days after Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned following a confidence vote and the collapse of his “unity” coalition in Parliament.

In response to the prime minister’s resignation, Italy will hold an early national election on Sept. 25.

Mattarella signed a decree dissolving parliament on July 21 and announced that Draghi will remain to lead a caretaker government until the elections.

Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, served as prime minister for less than 18 months.

Pope Francis signaled his approval of the economist in July 2020, when he named him as one of 26 ordinary academicians of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which promotes the study of economic and political sciences to aid the development of the Church’s social doctrine.

Mattarella was elected for a second seven-year term as president in January after he had expressed a desire to leave office.

The presidency in Italy is a largely ceremonial role as the head of state, though the president does have the ability to appoint prime ministers and cabinet ministers, dissolve parliament, and promulgate temporary government decrees in a time of crisis.

“I hope, even in the intense dialectic tone of the election campaign, there will be, on the part of all, a constructive contribution … in the best interests of Italy,” Mattarella said.

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