ROME (Oct. 5)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban of Israel will confer with Pope Paul VI on Middle East peace issues in an audience tomorrow, it was announced separately by Vatican City and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Mr. Eban arrived in Rome today en route home from his nearly two-and-one-half weeks visit to the United Nations and United States. It is expected that the Holy Places will be discussed.
The Vatican said the Pope’s interest in conferring with Mr. Eban “falls within the framework of the very keen interest constantly demonstrated by the holy father for the peace and conciliation of peoples in the Middle East.” The Foreign Ministry, in Jerusalem, said the meeting was arranged “because of the great interest shown by the head of the Catholic Church on peace in the Middle East, in bringing closer the peoples of the area and in the Holy Places.” The Vatican has never recognized the State of Israel and meetings between the Pontiff and Israeli leaders have been rare.
The Monday meeting, to which the Government attaches great importance, will be the first between an Israeli Cabinet minister and the Pope since the intensive talks which took place in the first few months following the 1967 war. It was noted that in addition to stopping its active campaign for an internationalization of Jerusalem, which has been a long-term Vatican aim. the Holy See has stopped pressing actively for a return to the city’s pre-war status. “The Church seems to be satisfied with the status granted to the churches right now,” a source said. The meeting will give Mr. Eban “the opportunity to clarify Israel’s views on these problems to the Pope,” the Foreign Ministry said.
(In his speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Mr. Eban said that “Israel does not claim exclusive or unilateral jurisdiction in the Holy Places of Christianity and Islam in Jerusalem and is willing to discuss this principle with those traditionally concerned. There is a versatile range of possibilities for working out a status for the Holy Places in such a manner as to promote Middle Eastern peace and ecumenical harmony, in the meantime, our policy is that the Moslem and Christian Holy Places should always be under the responsibility of those whom hold them sacred. This principle has been in practical effect since 1967.”)
Pope Paul sent an appeal to the recent Islamic summit conference in Rabat. Morocco, calling for peace in the Holy Land that would include an agreement of Islam. Christianity and Judaism on the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
In a message to conference chairman, King Hassan II of Morocco, the Pontiff told the delegates that “we think that the representatives of the three monotheistic religions should come to an agreement to recognize the unique and sacred character of the Holy Places and of Jerusalem in particular.”
The Pope refrained from using the word “internationalization.” Past proposals by Pope Paul and his predecessors using this term for Jerusalem were rejected by the Arabs and Israelis.
The Tel Aviv newspaper Yediot Achronoth said that an exchange of letters between the Pontiff and Mr. Eban took place recently and were based upon passages in the Foreign Minister’s recent book “My People” which dealt with Jewish-Christian relations through history.