Pope Benedict XVI talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting at the Vatican June 3.

Pope, Palestinian leader discuss Holy Land

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • June 3, 2011

VATICAN CITY - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held talks with Pope Benedict as well as with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti June 3, the Vatican's foreign minister.

The Vatican said the talks were "cordial" and focused on "the troubled situation in the Holy Land," according to a written Vatican statement released after the meeting.

Particular emphasis was put "on the urgent need to find a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one capable of ensuring respect for the rights of all and, therefore, the attainment of the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for an independent state," the Vatican statement said.

Soon both Israel and the Palestinian nation will have to "live in security, at peace with their neighbours and within internationally recognized borders," it said.

Peace will come to the region with the help of the world community and by upholding "a spirit of co-operation and openness to reconciliation," it said.

The talks also focused on the situation of Christians in the Palestinian territories and the Middle East, saying Christians make an "irreplaceable contribution" to society.

The two leaders also said they hoped that recently resumed talks between the Vatican and the Palestinian Liberation Organization would "proceed fruitfully toward the elaboration of a comprehensive agreement" between the two parties.

The diplomatic talks, which resumed at the end of 2010, aim to elaborate ways to implement the "Basic Agreement" between the Vatican and the PLO. The agreement was signed in 2000 spelling out principles for guaranteeing Church rights and religious freedom in territories administered by the Palestinian Authority.

The Pope later met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, the first Catholic vice president in U.S. history, met with the Pope in what was termed "a personal and private visit," according to a U.S. official.

In an unusual move, the Vatican did not announce or comment on the papal audience, which, sources explained, was because it was not an official visit.

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