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Israeli President Invites Pope to Visit Israel

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Pope Francis shares a light moment with Israeli President Shimon Peres during a private meeting at the Vatican on 30 April. Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel and left their meeting saying that “all the people of Israel” are expecting him. (photo: CNS/Ettore Ferrari, pool via Reuters) 

01 May 2013 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Israeli President Shimon Peres officially invited Pope Francis to Israel, telling the pope “the sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”

The Israeli president’s remarks were reported in a statement released by the Israeli Embassy to the Vatican after Peres met Pope Francis on 30 April.

The statement said Peres told Pope Francis about efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, mentioning specifically the 29 April meeting in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of the Arab League. Peres also told the pope that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “is a genuine partner for peace,” the statement said.

Peres left the meeting at the Vatican telling the pope, “I am expecting you in Jerusalem and not just me, but all the people of Israel.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters, “The pope would be happy to go to the Holy Land,” although there are no concrete plans for the trip.

The Vatican said that during their half-hour private conversation, the pope and the president discussed “the political and social situation in the Middle East, where more than a few conflicts persist.”

Pope Francis and Peres expressed hopes for a resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians so that “with courageous decisions and availability on both sides, as well as with the support of the international community, an agreement that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples can be reached,” the statement said.

A resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would contribute to peace and stability throughout the region, the Vatican said.

The two leaders also spoke about “the conflict that plagues Syria” and the need for a political solution in Syria that favors reconciliation and dialogue.

The statement released later by the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See quoted Peres as congratulating the pope on his election and praising Pope Francis’ leadership, which is “characterized by humility, the pursuit of peace and not by force. Your leadership creates a new spirit of hope for peace, of dialogue between nationals and of the promotion of a solution to global poverty and illiteracy.”

The Israeli president, according to the statement, told Pope Francis, “the Middle East is disintegrating” and a severe lack of employment, food and water are making many people vulnerable to those who advocate violence.

“You have an important role in progressing peace and the belief in it,” the statement quoted Peres as telling the pope. The president asked the pope to continue publicly praying for and appealing for peace in the Middle East.

Peres met the pope in the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace; with the assistance of an interpreter the two spoke privately for about half an hour before the Israeli president introduced members of his entourage to the pope and the two leaders exchanged gifts.





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