Italian Jewish Community Leaders Meet Vatican Official over Meeting Between the Pope and PLO Officia

Leaders of the Italian Jewish community have expressed their “concern” and “consternation” to the Vatican over the audience Pope John Paul II granted Farouk Kaddoumi, the foreign affairs spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. They said the act was interpreted in Italy and abroad as “recognition by the Holy See of the PLO as the legal and official representative of the Palestinian people.”

Tulia Zevi, vice president, and Alberto Levy, secretary of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities observed, at an hour-long meeting with the Vatican representative for foreign affairs Msgr. Achille Silverstrini last Friday, that the PLO refuses to recognize Israel’s existence. To extend to it even the semblance of Vatican recognition “impedes rather than favors the path leading toward the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the region,” the Jewish representatives said.

The Vatican, in an official press release, explained Kaddoumi’s visit last month as part of its efforts to become “directly acquainted with all points of view by all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict.” The Jewish leaders’ meeting with Silvestrini was described as “cordial.” They discussed the Christian–Jewish dialogue, the “question” of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee problem.

They also raised with the Vatican official the “intense political activity of Archbishop (Hilarion) Capucci as an exponent of the PLO, an activity at variance with the purely pastoral duties to which the Holy See had promised Capucci would be limited after his release from prison in 1977.”

Capucci, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for smuggling weapons to Palestinian terrorists in Israel, was released by the Israeli authorities at the Vatican’s intervention on condition that he not return to the Middle East and refrain from political activity.

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