Pope Francis met this morning with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, increasing hopes for a future visit by the Pontiff to the Holy Land.
The two leaders discussed the “complex political and social situation in the Middle East.” A Vatican press release stated that both the Holy Father and the Prime Minister expressed their hope that a lasting peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine.
Various questions were considered regarding the “relations between the State Authorities and the local Catholic communities, as well as between the State of Israel and the Holy See, in the hope that the Agreement which has been in preparation for some time may be concluded forthwith,” the communique stated.
During the exchange of gifts, the Israeli Prime Minister gave the Holy Father written by his late father entitled: “The Origins of the Inquisition in Spain in the 15th Century.” The book defends the theory that Catholics protected Jewish people during this period.
Sources present during the exchange said Prime Minister Netanyahu signed the book with the words “To His Holiness Pope Francis, the great guardian of our common heritage.” Netanyahu also gave the Holy Father a silver menorah, inscribed with the words: “To His Holiness Francis, with great esteem.” For his part, the Pope gave the Israeli Prime Minister a bronze statue of St. Paul.
Although there has been no official confirmation on a possible visit by the Pope to the Holy Land, the Holy See confirmed that “plans for a pilgrimage” were discussed. Both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have also extended invitations to Pope Francis during their respective visits to the Vatican Apostolic Palace.
Upon leaving, Sara Netanyahu told the Holy Father that they look forward to a future visit by the Holy Father. However, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists that as of now, no official dates for the visit will be announced today.
After his meeting with the Holy Father, the Israeli Prime Minister met with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.