Vatican City ( AsiaNews ) - The situation in the Middle East and in particular the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, the situation of Catholics in Israel and plans for the visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land were the topics discussed today in the meetings of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Vatican, where he was received by the Pope and later Secretary of State, Msgr. Pietro Parolin , accompanied by the Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.
"During the colloquial discussions" a Vatican press release reads "attention was focused on the complex political and social situation in the Middle East, with particular reference to the reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, expressing hope that a just and lasting solution respecting the rights of both Parties may be reached as soon as possible".
"Aside from indicating the Holy Father's plans for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, various questions were considered regarding the relations between the State Authorities and the local Catholic communities, as well as between the State of Israel and the Holy See, in the hope that the Agreement which has been in preparation for some time may be concluded forthwith".
Today's meeting follows on from the
one that Pope Francis had with the Israeli president, Shimon Peres , on April
30 and with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas , on October 17 .
Journalists who followed the meeting report a decidedly friendly climate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was accompanied by an entourage of 13 people , including his wife , Sarah, gave the Pope the book " The Origins of the Inquisition in Spain in the fifteenth century " , written in Spanish by his father Ben Zion Netanyahu. "My Spanish - said Netanyahu - is practically zero, but my father, who died last year, was a historian and knew this language". In the dedication, the Israeli Premier wrote: "To the great pastor and guardian of our common heritage". According to the publisher's notes, the volume denies the claims of historians that the Spanish Inquisition targeted Jews .
"To His Holiness Pope Francis with great respect", is engraved on the other hand on the silver tray on which a menorah and a jar for oil were placed. Francis, in exchange made a gift of a bronze bas-relief depicting St. Paul.
Netanyahu confirmed the invitation to Pope Francis to visit the Holy Land next spring. "We look forward to this", said the Prime Minister's wife told the Pope. The date of the visit has not yet been disclosed , but in Israel there is talk about the third week of next May, the 50th anniversary of the historic embrace in the Holy Land between Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.