(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday received in audience at the Vatican the
Israeli President Shimon Peres and held talks on a variety of issues concerning the
Middle East. President Peres also met the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertoni and Archbishop Dominque Mamberti, Secretary of Relations with States.
Please find below an English translation of the official communique on the talks released afterwards by the Holy See’s Press Office:
“During the cordial talks, the political and social situation in the Middle East—where more than a few conflicts persist—was addressed. A speedy resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians is hoped for, so that, with the courageous decisions and availability of both sides as well as support from the international community, an agreement may be reached that respects the legitimate aspirations of the two Peoples, thus decisively contributing to the peace and stability of the region. Reference to the important issue of the City of Jerusalem was not overlooked. Particular worry for the conflict that plagues Syria was expressed, for which a political solution is hoped for that privileges the logic of reconciliation and dialogue.
A number of issues concerning relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See and between state authorities and the local Catholic communities were also addressed. In conclusion, the significant progress made by the Bilateral Working Commission, which is preparing an agreement regarding issues of common interest, was appreciated and its rapid conclusion is foreseen.”
Following Tuesday’s meeting between Pope Francis and President Peres, Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Zion Evrony spoke to Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges about their talks and in particular about the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Syrian conflict and the long-standing bilateral talks between Israel and the Holy See on tax and economic issues.
Listen to the extended interview with Ambassador Evrony by Susy Hodges:
Ambassador Evrony says Israel “really hopes” for an early resumption of the stalled peace process between the Jewish state and the Palestinians. “There’s nothing that that the people of Israel want more than peace … peace with our Palestinian neighbours is one of our main goals,” he says.
Ambassador Evrony also talks about Israel’s concerns over the Syrian conflict, saying the crisis there “is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis.” “It is tragic,” he continues, “to see the bloodshed and human suffering and see a brutal dictator massacre his own people.” The Israeli Ambassador also spoke of his country’s concern about the issue of chemical weapons in Syria and said he is worried that “these chemical weapons could end up in the wrong hands.”
Turning to the question of the bilateral discussions between Israel and the Holy See over various economic and tax issues, Ambassador Evrony said “there was reason to be optimistic” concerning these long-standing issues although he added “there is still some work to be done” before a final conclusion can be reached.