ROME (JTA) — Pope Benedict XVI and Israeli President Shimon Peres discussed prospects for the new round of Middle East peace negotiations.
During a private audience Thursday at the pope’s summer residence outside Rome, Peres and the pope expressed the hope that the talks in Washington would help reach an agreement "that is respectful of the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples and capable of bringing lasting peace to the Holy Land and to the entire region," a Vatican statement said.
The statement said the leaders also reaffirmed "condemnation of all forms of violence and the necessity of guaranteeing better conditions of life to all the peoples of the area."
It was the fourth meeting between the pontiff and Peres since Benedict became pope in 2005. Their talks also touched on interreligious relations, as well as bilateral relations between Israel and the Holy See, and relations between Israel’s state authorities and local Christian communities.
The Vatican statement said the two leaders hoped that long-stalled negotiations on an agreement between the Vatican and Israel on taxation and other financial matters regarding the Catholic Church in Israel would be concluded soon.