Pope Sends Prayers to Victims of Israeli Forest Fire

Holy See Meets With Israeli Commission; Takes Up Negotiations With Palestinians

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is assuring his prayers for the victims of the four-day forest fire that took the lives of more than 40 people in Israel last week.

This was announced in a statement today from the Vatican regarding the Thursday plenary meeting of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

The Holy See welcomed that meeting, as well as talks held two days earlier with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Both of the meetings were co-chaired for the Holy See by Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, undersecretary for relations with states.

The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs hosted the plenary meeting of the working commission, which «took place in a good and open atmosphere,» the Vatican stated.

Israel’s delegation was headed by Danny Ayalon, deputy minister of foreign affairs.

The Holy See’s statement recounted: «At the start of the meeting, reference was made to the telegram sent by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. to Benyamin Netanyahu, prime minister of the State of Israel, conveying Pope Benedict XVI’s assurances of his prayers and his solidarity with the families of those who lost their lives, to the wounded and to all who were affected by the recent forest fire in northern Israel, as well as ‘his appreciation for the rescue efforts which were carried out with such selfless dedication,’ and his prayers ‘that those who have lost their homes in this tragedy may soon be able to rebuild their lives.'»

The delegations at the working commission plenary assembly continued their conversations on the next steps toward conclusion of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement.

Their next meeting will be June 16 at the Vatican.

Special relations

Regarding the Tuesday meeting with the PLO, a Vatican statement Thursday announced that talks had resumed between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization, at the headquarters of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah, following the Basic Agreement signed in 2000. 

«The talks aimed at a comprehensive international agreement regulating and promoting the presence and activities of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian Territories, so strengthening the special relations between the Holy See and the PLO,» the communiqué added.

Ziad Al-Bandak, Abbas’ advisor for Christian relations, co-chaired the meeting in representation of the PLO.

The Vatican statement affirmed that the «talks were held in a cordial atmosphere,» and that «both sides agreed on establishing a working group to elaborate the aforementioned comprehensive agreement.»

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