Pope John Paul II welcomed Indonesia's reformist president to the Vatican on Saturday, warmly greeting the leader who Indonesia's papal nuncio described as "a blessing to his country."
   John Paul greeted Abdurrahman Wahid on Saturday with a handshake, saying, "Welcome, welcome" in English. Wahid's daughter, Anita Rahman, accompanied the president into a brief private talk with the pope. She put a supporting hand on the arm of her father, who is nearly blind from diabetes.
   The Vatican said Wahid's talks with church leaders addressed Muslim-Christian relations in Indonesia, where Wahid has sought to calm sectarian violence that killed 2000 people last year.
   Wahid and church leaders also discussed the East Timor, the Vatican said.
   Wahid is on a marathon tour of Asia and Europe. On the eve of his Vatican visit, the papal nuncio to Jakarta praised him "as a man who pushes for ethnic-religious harmony and for democracy."
   "This president is a blessing to his country," Monsignor Renzo Fratini told Fides, the Vatican's missionary news service.
   A Vatican communique said the meeting between the head of the Roman Catholic church and Wahid was very cordial.
   A photo opportunity had the 79-year-old Pope, leaning on a cane, standing between the Indonesian leader, who is practically blind, and his wheelchair-bound wife.
   Wahid presented the pope with a wooden sculpture representing the Last Supper. He received a bas-relief with the saints Peter and Paul.
   The Indonesian president was accompanied by a group of Catholics during the 12-minute meeting.
AAP 7/2/00

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