Homeland security, scientific cooperation and Middle East peace were the key topics in individual discussions which President Shimon Peres held on Tuesday with five new envoys following the presentation of their credentials.
The quintet included Croatian Ambassador Pjer Šimunović, Swiss Ambassador Andreas Bau, Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar, Belgian Ambassador Count John Cornet d’Elzius and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.
The Papal Nuncio who was the last of the envoys, conveyed the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI, with whom Peres met in Jerusalem as well as in the Pope's summer residence in Castel Gondolfo, to which Peres replied that he was happy to see that the Pope was tweeting regularly. If he were to tweet back, said Peres, his message would be "We have the highest level of relations between Israel and the Holy See."
Peres recalled that in 1993, when he was foreign minister, he had become involved in dialogue with the Vatican with regard to the signing of a treaty regarding property taxes and the status of the Church in Israel. The treaty is only now on the way to being finalized explained Peres, because Israel realized that if it gave special privileges to the Church it would have to adopt the same policies with regard to all faiths, and the fine details of that had to be worked out very carefully.
Israel is doing everything possible to ensure that the Christian community has complete freedom of worship, which is not an easy thing in the Middle East, said Peres. "We want all religions to be free to worship in their own way without interference."