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Papal tribute to Yasser Arafat

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II expressed his closeness to the family of Yasser Arafat and to the Palestinian people following the November 11 announcement of the Palestinian leader’s death in a Paris military hospital.

The Pope also prayed that Israelis and Palestinians soon “may live reconciled among themselves as two independent and sovereign states”.

The message was written by Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and authorised by the Pope, a Vatican statement said.

It was addressed to president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Rawhi Fattuh.

Earlier, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement that Mr Arafat “was a leader of great charisma, who loved his people and who sought to guide them toward national independence”.

The Vatican delegation to Mr Arafat’s November 12 funeral in Cairo was headed by Jerusalem Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s representative to the Holy See, Afif Safieh, said the good diplomatic relations that Mr Arafat established with the Vatican would not change.

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