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Pope Expected to Meet Arafat in Context of General Audience

The New York office of the World Jewish Congress said today that according to information received from Rome, Pope John Paul II will not receive Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat in private but in the context of a general audience held at the Vatican each Wednesday.

The WJC told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency however, that it was possible that after the general audience, the Pope might decide to see Arafat privately. WJC president Edgar Bronfman announced today that the organization’s liaison at the Vatican personally delivered a formal communication expressing the “deep shock” of organized Jewry at the announcement that the Pope would receive Arafat.

The diplomatic note was sent in the name of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultation (IJCIC), the official body through which world Jewry maintains relations with the Vatican. Dr. Gerhart Riegner, secretary general of the WJC and chairman of the IJCIC, dispatched the note under his signature for immediate and urgent personal transmission to the competent Vatican authorities, Bronfman reported.

The IJCIC message said the announced meeting was “unhelpful to the furtherance of Catholic-Jewish relations” and strongly urged “reconsideration of the decision.” It expressed regret that the status of the PLO was being raised “when political developments seem to open new perspectives for peaceful solutions” in the Middle East.

In addition to the WJC, the IJCIC includes the Synagogue Council of America, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the Israel Jewish Council for Interreligious Consultations.

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