Pope presses for pact during meeting with Israel leader

Pope Benedict XVI accepted an invitation to visit the Holy Land during meeting yesterday with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, during which he sought to revive lagging negotiations toward a juridical pact establishing the rights of the Church in Israel.

CLICK HERECatholic World News reports that the Holy Father pressed the Israeli leader for implementation of existing bilateral agreements between the Holy See and the Israeli site.

Spokesmen for both Israel and the Vatican described the talks as cordial.

President Katsav, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that a large portion of the conversation had involved the conflict between Israel and Palestine. A statement released by Fr Ciro Benedettini, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, indicated that the Pope had underlined his support for a solution allowing peace and security for both Israeli and Palestinian states.

"I invited the Pope to make a visit to the state of Israel," Katsav told the press. "He responded positively to my invitation." The Israeli leader said that no dates had been discussed, but he hoped the Pope would visit sometime in 2006.

The Vatican announced that Vatican-Israeli relations were a major topic, and the Pope spoke about "implementation of the agreements thus far signed."

The "Fundamental Accord" reached between the two parties in 1993 calls for the creation of a further agreement ensuring the legal and juridical rights of the Church in Israel. Vatican officials have shown increasing frustration at the slow pace of negotiations to fix that agreement. President Katsav said that the negotiations are now advancing, and most of the important issues are resolved, although he conceded that some important questions remain unsettled. In July 2004, under diplomatic pressure from the US, Israeli representatives returned to the bargaining table after a long absence.

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18 Nov 2005