Pope holds meeting with Arafat

 Pope John Paul II gave a 25 minute audience to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday, the Vatican press office announced at the weekend. During the meeting at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope spoke of the absolute necessity for an end to all forms of violence in the Middle East, as an indispensable condition for peace in the area. He condemned all the attacks in Israel and the territories of the Palestinian Authorities. "In expressing his sorrow over the victims, caused to date by the repeated confrontations, His Holiness firmly repeated the absolute necessity that an end be put to any form of violence, whether the result of attacks or reprisals," said Fr Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the press office. At the same time, the Vatican statement said the Pope called for negotiations as "the only means capable, with the help of the international community, of giving hope to attain peace." Speaking on Vatican Radio, Fr Ciro said that the meeting between the two leaders "was very cordial." This was the 10th time the Holy Father met with Arafat at the Vatican. In February 2000, the Vatican signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority making the Church's presence in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories official, and registering the Vatican request for the creation of an international statute guaranteeing religious liberty in Jerusalem's Holy Places. source: Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem

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