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Pope, Israeli president discuss peace prospects

Catholic World News - September 02, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI met on September 2 with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the papal summer residence on Castel Gandolfo, for a 40-minute talk that centered on peace prospects in the Middle East.

In a joint statement released after the talks, the two leaders expressed their hopes that the Israeli-Palestinian talks opening in Washington this week “may assist in reaching an agreement that is respectful of the legitimate aspirations of the two Peoples and capable of bringing lasting peace to the Holy Land and to the entire region.” The statement added a “condemnation of all forms of violence.”

The Pope also spoke with Peres about the long-running negotiations to conclude an agreement that will establish the juridical rights of Church institutions in Israel. The joint statement expressed “hope for the rapid conclusion” of those negotiations, which have now continued, with several long interruptions, for over 15 years.

Peres later told reporters that he had asked the Pontiff for help in securing the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since he was seized in a border raid in 2006. The Pope promised to help, Peres said.

Although international analysts are not optimistic about the prospects for a lasting peace agreement arising from the latest round of talks in Washington, Peres told reporters that the stakes were high. "All sides must understand that the alternative to peace is dangerous and extremist Iranian hegemony in the entire Middle East," he said.

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