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Catholic World News News Feature

Israeli leaders to visit Vatican March 20, 2006

Two leading Israeli politicians will visit the Vatican in coming weeks, according to Italian media reports.

Tsipi Livni, the Israeli minister of foreign affairs, will meet on March 22 with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States. And on April 6, former prime minister Shimon Peres will be received in a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI.

Both Israeli political figures are members of the Kadima party, founded by Ariel Sharon before the Israeli premier was suffered a massive stroke. Kadima remains favored to emerge victorious from parliamentary elections in Israel on March 28.

Tsipi Livni, a former member of the rightist Likud party, rallied behind Sharon in the founding of the centrist Kadima movement. It was Livni who contacted the Vatican on March 4 to assure Church leaders that the rioting at the Annunciation basilica in Nazareth had been caused by an emotionally unstable couple, and did not have political overtones.

Shimon Peres, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, remains a key political leader at the age of 82. Although formerly a standard-bearer for the Labor party, he too has joined the Kadima forces that are now headed by acting prime minister Ehud Olmert.