Katsav invites Pope Benedict XVI to Jerusalem
17 November 2005, VATICAN CITY - Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Jerusalem in the coming months during what was described as a "friendly" meeting at the Vatican on Thursday.
17 November 2005
VATICAN CITY - Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit Jerusalem in the coming months during what was described as a "friendly" meeting at the Vatican on Thursday.
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Katsav said Pope Benedict had reacted positively to the invitation and said he hoped the papal visit could take place as soon as "next year".
Katsav said the pope had expressed a desire to visit the site of what is believed to be the oldest Christian church in Israel. The church, which is thought to date back to the 3rd century AC, was recently unearthed in a jail close to the hill of Armageddon, where tradition says God will one day defeat Satan.
There was no immediate official comment from the Vatican on a possible papal visit to Israel.
Benedict has received a number of invitations to visit foreign countries, but has so far made only one trip abroad, to his homeland of Germany in August.
Speaking of his visit to the Vatican, Katsav said the meeting with Pope Benedict had been profoundly influenced by "the spirit of Pope John Paul II", whom he described as "the most important figure of the 20th century".
Benedict's predecessor was the first pope to visit Israel, during his landmark visit in 2000, and the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to enter a synagogue, that of Rome in 1986. He also issued a historic apology to Jews on behalf of the Church and played a crucial role in establishing full diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, in 1994.
German-born Benedict has vowed to continue in his path, meeting Jewish leaders and visiting the main synagogue of Cologne during his summer trip there.
Katsav, who met John Paul twice and attended the late pope's funeral in Rome earlier this year, is the first Israeli president to meet two popes.
Thursday's 25-minute meeting had been described as "historic" by Israel's ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben Hur, who underscored the steady progress in relations between the two states.
In a statement, the Vatican said the talks had centred on a number of bilateral issues, including the Fundamental Agreement of 1993 - the document that led to the establishment of diplomatic ties - and the Legal Personality Agreement of 1997 - which guarantees the independence of Church institutions and activities in Israel.
Among the unresolved issues is a request by the Vatican for Church properties in the Holy Land to be granted extra-territorial status for tax purposes.
Katsav has also met Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian officials during his three-day visit to Italy.
Subject: German news