Pope to Interrupt Annual Retreat in Order to Meet Syrian President

ROME, FEB. 19, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, called for the recognition of a Palestinian state. He also said an attack on Iraq “would not contribute to peace.”

In a meeting Monday with the highest authorities of Italy, the cardinal appealed to the country to work for the “right of existence of two states” in the Middle East, “the state of Israel and the Palestinian state.”

Cardinal Sodano also revealed that on Thursday the Holy Father will interrupt his weeklong Spiritual Exercises to meet with Syrian President Bachar al-Assad. Commenting on the president’s visit, the cardinal expressed the hope that “all men of goodwill will collaborate to put an end to the Calvary lived by the peoples of the region.”

Cardinal Sodano’s annual meeting with the Italian president, Prime Minister and other authorities took place in the Italian Embassy in the Vatican, on the anniversary of the 1929 Lateran Pact.

At the end of the meeting, Cardinal Sodano revealed to the press that the Vatican appealed to the Italian government for its commitment in fostering Mideast peace.

“We must help these two nations live together,” he explained. “Without the effort of the international community, it will be difficult for the two adversaries to come to an agreement.”

“We must hasten to put an end to this situation, giving the two states the right of existence,” the cardinal stressed, “and we must help these nations live together.”

He added: “It is true that an attack against Iraq would not help the situation in the Middle East.”