2009-10-09 15:11:19

Pope meets Palestinian leader, discusses Middle East conflict

(October 9, 2009) Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in private audience in the Vatican and discussed with him the problems in the Middle East. A statement from the Vatican press office said the two leaders stressed the need to find "a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which the rights of all are recognized and respected." Mutual respect and the support of the international community will be an important part of any agreement, the statement said. The situation of the dwindling Christian community in Palestine was also discussed, along with the contribution the region's Christians make "to social life and to peaceful coexistence among peoples," the Vatican statement said. In the customary exchange of gifts, Abbas gave the pope a painting of Jerusalem on ceramic, with the caption in English and Arabic: "Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture." The pope gave Abbas a bas relief in pewter of St. Peter's Square surrounded by a circular ivory ceramic frame. Abbas later met Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Pope Benedict supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He met both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in private meetings during his trip to the Holy Land in May.

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