Bush Nominee ‘cautiously Optimistic’ That Pope Will Recognize Israel Soon

President Bush’s nominee for ambassador to the Vatican said last week that he was “cautiously optimistic” that Pope John Paul II would eventually grant diplomatic recognition to Israel.

Thomas Patrick Melady, the ambassador-designate, made those comments at his July 19 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who questioned Melady, noted that the Vatican recognizes Israel’s right to exist and that John Paul II has met Israeli officials on several occasions.

But at the same time, Biden said, the Vatican has declined to establish full diplomatic ties because they believe that recognition should come only after a Middle East peace agreement that defines Israel’s borders and satisfies Palestinian demands for a national homeland.

Melady replied that he thinks the Vatican should extend diplomatic recognition to Israel.

Biden asked Melady how important it is that the Vatican be perceived as being more sympathetic to the concerns and problems facing Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.

“I think it is in the interest of what the Vatican, the Holy See, wants to accomplish in regard to the reduction of tensions,” Melady said. “There are things that can be done.”

On another issue, Melady said the controversy at the former Auschwitz concentration camp where nuns have erected a convent “is not directly a matter of U.S. government interest.”

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