VATICAN CITY (CNS): As a US-backed peace plan began taking shape in the Middle East, Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials met US Secretary of State Colin Powell on June 2 for talks on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In another meeting the same morning, the Pope detailed the Vatican’s vision of lasting regional peace – including independent and sovereign Israeli and Palestinian states – to Israel’s new ambassador to the Vatican.
The 83 year-old pontiff met with Mr Powell for 30 minutes. The pontiff sent his regards to US President George W. Bush and said “God bless America” after the meeting.
Mr Powell then met for an hour with Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican’s equivalent of foreign minister.
US Ambassador to the Vatican Jim Nicholson said the meetings, which he attended, offered a chance “to have a real, thorough wringing out” on many issues of Vatican and US concern.
The Pope, in a meeting the same day with newly appointed Israeli Ambassador Oded Ben-Hur, spelled out his vision of Middle East peace, saying it was essential for Israeli and Palestinian leadership to “give clear signs of their determined commitment to bring this peaceful co-existence about”.
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