Shimon Peres invites Pope Francis to Israel
VATICAN – On Tuesday, April 30, Israeli President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to Israel. “I hope to see you in Jerusalem, not only I, but all Israel,” he told the Supreme Pontiff, with whom he had a private audience at the Vatican.
On April 30, the Pope met President Peres, who invited him to come to Jerusalem. We note, however, that Patriarch Fouad Twal, had already addressed this invitation to the Pope soon after his election (see Press release of 13 March 2013). As yet unconfirmed, a joint visit of the Pope and the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew to the Christian Holy Places in 2014 has been mentioned several times since the election. Such a visit would be an opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in 1974.
According to a statement from the Vatican Information Service, the meeting provided an opportunity to grapple with the conflicts in the Middle East. According to the press report: “A prompt resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for so that, by courageous decisions and willingness on both sides, as well as the support of the international community,
an agreement that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples can be reached, and so resolutely contribute to peace and stability in the region.” During the meeting, “Reference was made to the important issue of the City of Jerusalem. Particular concern about the conflict that plagues Syria was expressed.”
President Peres and Pope Francis also recalled “the significant progress made by the Bilateral Working Commission, working on the preparation of an agreement on issues of common interest, for which we wish a rapid conclusion.” A recurring theme of the negotiations relates to the economic and tax issues of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
At the end of the private audience of about thirty minutes, the Israeli President presented to Pope Francis a Bible in Hebrew and English.