Pope and Colin Powell Discuss Iraq, Africa and the Holy Land

U.S. Secretary of State Visits Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The reconstruction of Iraq, peace in the Holy Land, and the woes of Africa were the focus U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s audience with John Paul II.

Vatican Radio described it as an important meeting, «the first at the highest level between the Holy See and an exponent of the White House,» since the end of the Iraqi war, on which Rome and Washington differed.

Following his meeting today with the Holy Father, which lasted slightly less than half an hour, the U.S. secretary of state met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

The director of the Vatican press office, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, said that above all the discussions were centered on the «material and political reconstruction of Iraq.»

The emphasis was on «the cooperation of the international community, with special attention to be given to fundamental rights, such as the right of religious liberty.»

Discussions were also held on «the new prospects for peace opened by the ‘road map’ in the Holy Land and the whole region,» Navarro-Valls added.

Thanks to this plan for the peace process, supported by the United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations, it is hoped that «the two states, Israelis and Palestinian, will finally be able to enjoy the same security and the same sovereignty,» the press office director said.

There was also «an exchange of opinions on the situation in Africa and, in particular, on the struggle against epidemic diseases, in which the different aid and charitable institutions of the Catholic Church have always participated,» the Vatican spokesman continued.

The meeting between John Paul II and Colin Powell was held in «a truly cordial atmosphere,» Navarro-Valls told Vatican Radio.

«In a certain sense, words were heard that were pronounced a few days ago by President Bush when speaking of the Pope in Krakow, Poland, when he said that he is one of the most important leaders in the world» today, Navarro-Valls said.

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