Mrs. Meir’s Visit to Pope a Surprise

Premier Golda Meir’s decision to meet with Pope Paul VI in Rome tomorrow on the heels of her visit to Paris for the Socialist International meeting this weekend is believed to have been a deliberate one, made to give her a chance to see the Pope without making a special journey to Europe to do so.

Israeli commentators were caught unaware by today’s announcement of the Rome meeting. Most of them believed that the Pope and Mrs. Meir would limit their discussion to the problem of Jerusalem and the Christian holy places.

Arrangements for the visit were made during the last 10 days, according to well-placed government sources. Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said Mrs. Meir would return home directly after her Rome meetings. They said her visit to the Pope-was kept secret until today for security reason.

One well-placed source said he thought wider problems of the Middle East conflict would come up at tomorrow’s meeting such as the refugees and the Christian communities in the administered areas. The Pope is not thought, however, to have any “peace plan” of his own to offer, nor is he known to have been in contact with Arab leaders on the Mideast question.

The meeting will mark the first time that an Israeli Prime Minister will meet a Pope at Vatican City, although in 1964, Pope Paul VI met the late Premier Levi Eshkol at Megiddo during his visit to Israel which lasted only several hours, He spent most of his time in Jordan.

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