10/17/2013, 00.00
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Pope holds "cordial discussions" with Mahmoud Abbas, talks about Mideast peace

The two leaders express hope for progress in talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as "grave concerns" over Syria. Both express satisfaction with bilateral relations and the "significant contribution" Christians offer to the common good in the region.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis received Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas today in the Vatican. During their meeting, the two men expressed hope for progress in talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as "grave concerns" for the situation in Syria. Later, the Palestinian leader met with the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Mgr Dominique Mamberti.

"During the cordial discussions," the Vatican statement said, "reference was made to the situation in the Middle East, and in particular to the reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict, an increasingly necessary and urgent objective. In this respect, hope was expressed that the Parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace, with the support of the international Community."

At the end of the meeting, which lasted about 25 minutes, the Holy Father gave Abbas a decorative pen, shaped as a pillar from the baldachin or canopy of state that is over the altar of the Confession in Saint Peter, telling him "surely, you have a lot of things you have to sign." In his answer, Abbas said, "I hope to sign a peace treaty with Israel with this pen." To this, Francis replied, "Soon, soon!"

In addition to relations between Israelis and Palestinians, the Vatican statement addressed the "Grave concerns [that] remain [. . .] regarding the situation in Syria, for which it is hoped that dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.

"With regard to bilateral relations, satisfaction was expressed for the progress made in the elaboration of a Global Agreement on several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine."

"Finally, mention was made of the situation faced by Christian communities in the Palestinian Territories, and in the Middle East in general, highlighting the significant contribution they offer to the common good of society."

President Abbas later said that he had invited the Pope Francis to visit Palestine.

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