Pope Francis received President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, in the Vatican today Thursday, November 15, 2018, according to a statement of the Holy See Press Office.
According to the Vatican, their discussions–which took place around the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations–were cordial, and highlighted the positive relations between the Holy See and State of Israel.
The statement noted that with regard to the state authorities and the local Catholic communities, “the hope was expressed that suitable agreements may be reached in relation to some issues of common interest.”
“Mention,” it stated, “was made of the importance of building greater mutual trust in view of the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples, and of the Jerusalem question, in its religious and human dimension for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as the importance of safeguarding its identity and vocation as ‘City of Peace.'”
“Finally,” the Vatican stated, “attention turned to the political and social situation in the region, marked by different conflicts and the consequent humanitarian crises. In this context, the parties highlighted the importance of dialogue between the various religious communities in order to guarantee peaceful coexistence and stability.”
After meeting the Pope, the Israeli President met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
This encounter marked the Israeli President’s second visit to Rome and to the Vatican. His first visit was in September 2015. President Rivlin also met with his Italian counterpart, President Sergio Mattarella, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
During the Sept. 3, 2015 audience, the Pope and the President stressed the “urgent need” to re-launch the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Holy Father and the Israeli President then recognized, the Vatican statement at that time noted, “the urgent need to foster an atmosphere of trust between Israelis and Palestinians and to re-launch direct negotiations between the two peoples”: an agreement “respecting their legitimate aspirations could serve as a fundamental contribution to peace and stability in the region.”
Particular attention was given to the “situation of Christians and other minority groups.” In this connection, the parties recognized “the importance of the inter-religious dialogue” and the “responsible engagement of religious leaders in the promotion of reconciliation and peace.”
The two Heads of States also addressed questions concerning “relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See, and between the State Authorities and the local Catholic communities.” They appealed for “a speedy conclusion of the bilateral agreement being addressed and for an appropriate solution to certain questions of common interest, including the situation of Christian schools in the country.”
President Rivlin then too met with Cardinal Parolin and Archbishop Gallagher.
During the traditional exchange of gifts, the Pope gave Rivlin a bronze medallion, which he had never before offered to previous visitors: it is formed by two separated blocks between which an olive branch is represented as a sign of peace. Written around the medallion is the phrase: “Seek what unites, surmount what divides.”
For his part, the Israeli President gave the Pope a basalt present on which a verse of a Psalm can be read, and he explained it thus: “I thought it was right to recall the common origin of Judaism and of Christianity.”
After leaving the Vatican, President Rivlin said to the press: “Francis is the first responsible one, the leader in charge of humanity, a man who seeks the best of his interlocutor. I began my visit to the Vatican this morning by a meeting with him. I told him how, when I was only a 6-year-old child, I promised myself to fight so that no one would feel what I then felt, and to do all I could so that the capacity of each individual to express his religion and his beliefs freely is something normal and an intangible right.”
Born on September 9, 1939 in Jerusalem, Reuven Rivlin has been President of the State of Israel since July 24, 2014. A lawyer by formation, he began his political career in the 70s and entered Parliament, the Knesset for the first time in 1988, under the colors of the Likoud party — a nationalist party of the right. Minister of Communications between 2001 and 2003, he was elected that same year President of the Knesset. A candidate during the presidential election of 2007, he was beaten by Shimon Peres on the first round and withdrew his candidacy. Two years later, in 2009, he became President of the Knesset for the second time.
Despite the tensions with the Prime Minster and leader of the Likoud party, Benyamin Netanyahou, he was again designated a candidate for the presidency of the State of Israel and was elected in 2014.
He will return to Israel on Saturday, November 17.