National Catholic Reporter

February 14, 1997

page 7

Pope meets Netanyahu

With Middle East negotiations showing signs of new momentum, Pope John Paul II held his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss a possible church role in regional peace.

Following their 20 minute private audience Feb. 3, the Vatican issued a statement underlining its interest in every phase of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and offering to do

It described the meeting as "cordial" and said Netanyahu, elected in mid-1996, had pledged to continue a policy of bridge-building with the Vatican, undertaken in 1992 and continued by his predecessors.

The Vatican said Netanyahu had also asked the pope to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land "as soon as possible." The pope said he hoped he could make the visit, but did not say when.

The Israeli prime minister also held talks with the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and other top aides.