Thursday’s visit coincides with the first direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in nearly two years. The talks are taking place in Washington, D.C., at the initiative of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Holy Father appealed for peace in the Middle East on occasions such as his visit to the synagogue of Rome on Jan. 17, 2010, when he said: “I invoke from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the whole world, in particular in the Holy Land.”
Last June in Nicosia, Cyprus, the Pontiff made a new appeal for peace: “I reiterate my personal appeal in favor of an international, urgent and concerted effort, to resolve the present tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before those conflicts lead to greater tragedies.”
Again in Rome, last June 25, the Pope said: “We all desire for the Holy Land, for Iraq and for the Middle East the gift of a stable peace and good solid coexistence. These are born of respect for the rights of persons, of families, of communities and of peoples, and of the overcoming of all religious, cultural and social discrimination.”
From Oct. 10-24, the Catholic bishops and patriarchs of the Middle East will meet in Rome for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
The Vatican is also in negotiations with Israel over the terms of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement.
The Fundamental Agreement established diplomatic relationships between the Holy See and Israel. Since then, the two sides have been negotiating the particulars of tax exemptions and property rights for the Church, in particular for the holy sites.
The next plenary session of the commission will take place Dec. 6 at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.