ROME (Mar. 27)
For the first time since the establishment of the Jewish State, a meeting between the Pope and a member of the Israel Government took place here today when Israel’s Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett paid a courtesy call to the Vatican.
During the 15-minute audience, the Israeli Minister presented the greetings of the people and State of Israel and described the religious freedom that the Christian and other sects have in the Jewish State. He also presented a picture of the stable conditions in the country and along its borders and assured the Pope of the safety of the Holy Places.
Pope Pius expressed concern over economic conditions and the refugee problem in Israel and hoped that the Christian communities would develop in the country. After the audience, Vatican circles said that Mr. Sharett’s call on the Pope was a good opening for the development of mutual understanding in the future.
Mr. Sharett, who is here as the guest of the Italian Government, was received by President Luigi Einaudi in a 45-minute audience. He also met with Premier Alcide de Gasperi and discussed with him various Middle East problems. After-wards, the Israeli Minister and Italian Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Francesco Dominedo discussed the release of Israeli assets frozen in Italy and extension of trade between the two countries.
Italy, as a non-colonial Mediterranean power could play an important part in establishing normal Israeli-Arab relations, Mr. Dominedo told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. He emphasized that Italy greatly desires peace between Israel and the Arab states.
He also expressed the hope that Israel and the Vatican would reach gradual agreement on the fate of the Holy Places in Israel. Referring to economic issues pending between his country and the Jewish State, the Italian statesman said that the unfreezing of Italian property in Israel would lead to a new phase in Israeli-Italian relations “culminating in the signing of a general friendship agreement.”
Commenting on Mr. Dominedo’s statement, the Israel Foreign Minister told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Israel would welcome Italian intervention in the Israeli-Arab dispute, although the Jewish State has not requested such intervention. He said that Italy’s function in the Middle East could be to demonstrate that its friendship for one party in the dispute in no way interferes with the maintenance of friendly ties with the other party.