Pope Paul, Eban Discuss Mideast Crisis, Arab-israel Reconciliation, Holy Places

Pope Paul VI today received Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in a “special audience” and they discussed the Middle East crisis, peace, reconciliation of the peoples of the region, the future of Christian and Moslem Holy Places, and the refugee issue.

A Vatican announcement, following the meeting in the Holy See library, said that another topic was the “sacred and unique character of Jerusalem.” The announcement said that the Pontiff and Mr. Eban met for little less than an hour and that “high holiness had the opportunity to reaffirm and personally outline the positions of the Holy See on (Middle East) problems.”

The Vatican said that Pope Paul “listened attentively” while Mr. Eban outlined Israeli efforts to promote peace and while he discussed the status of Jews in Arab nations. The Holy See said that the Pontiff “was inspired only by higher religious motives and by Christian and human charity” as well as a desire to see “a just and lasting peace and a brotherly and meaningful coexistence.”

With Mr. Eban was Israeli Ambassador to Italy, Amiet Najar. Speaking later to Rome’s Jewish community in a synagogue, Mr. Eban said, “I found an atmosphere of esteem and profound respect for our sovereignty and for our historical evaluation. I hope this will be a point of departure for further contacts on international policy that will form part of our effort to achieve peace.”

When he arrived Sunday in Rome, Mr. Eban said that Israel wants to bring Christian and Moslem shrines in the Holy Land under the jurisdiction of “those who hold them sacred.” He said that until there is a peace settlement with the Arabs, Israel will continue to give full responsibility for the shrines to Christian and Moslem authorities in Israel.

Israeli Government circles attached great importance to the meeting. It is believed that the last time an Israeli minister had been received by a Pope in the Vatican was in 1952 when Pius XII received then Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett in a private audience.

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