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Vatican Confirms Pope Will Meet with Arafat This Week

September 13, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Vatican has confirmed that Pope John Paul II will meet Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat when the latter attends the 69th Inter-parliamentary Union meeting here September 14-22 as an “observer.”

The Pope is “disposed to meet Yasir Arafat regarding the sufferings and rights of the Palestinian people of which the Pope spoke recently,” Rev. Romeo Panciroli, the Vatican Press Officer, announced yesterday. He did not say when the audience will take place. Nemer Hamad, the PLO representative in Rome, said Arafat would arrive on Wednesday.


(Israeli officials today expressed dismay at the impending meeting and hoped it would not lead to Vatican recognition of the PLO. Israel apparently failed, after a week of diplomatic efforts in Rome, to head off the audience. The officials noted, however, that the Pope has heretofore stressed the humanitarian aspects of the Palestinian problem, not its political dimension.

(Israeli officials said after today’s Cabinet session that “discreet” diplomatic efforts were still going on to head off a meeting between the Pope and Arafat. The officials indicated that the matter was discussed at length by the Cabinet. They did not believe Premier Menachem Begin would write directly to the Pope unless he had reason to believe in advance that an appeal to call off the meeting would be complied with.)


Arafat was invited to Rome by former Premier Giulio Andreotti, now a Christian Democrat member of Parliament, who is President of this year’s Inter-parliamentary Union meeting. It will be attended by about 1,500 delegates representing the legislative bodies of 98 countries, including Israel.

Andreotti observed that “The National Palestinian Council of which Arafat is part is a member of the Inter-parliamentary Union as observer according to the United Nations model and has always participated in the conference of the Union.”


The PLO office here confirmed that Arafat would attend. It said the only “conditions” he laid down were promised meetings with President Sandro Pertini of Italy, Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo and Premier Giovanni Spadolini. It did not mention an audience with the Pope.

Observers here said it was most likely, that Arafat would be received by Colombo inasmuch as Italy has extended de facto recognition to the PLO. A meeting with Pertini is also considered highly likely. The President has repeatedly expressed sympathy with the PLO.

Spadolini has been a strong supporter of Israel’s rights. But he has spoken recently of the possibility of “official Italian recognition of the PLO as representative of the Palestinian people,” after negotiations “which favor a reciprocal, unequivocal and simultaneous recognition between the PLO and Israel.”

That statement has been taken by many observers to signal a shift by Spadolini forward official recognition of the PLO. But it was not seen as a readiness to meet with Arafat on this occasion.

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