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(photo credit: AP [file])
Pope Benedict XVI has named a diplomat now serving in the Philippines to be the Holy See's envoy to Israel and Cyprus.
The Vatican said on Saturday that Archbishop Antonio Franco would serve as nuncio in Jerusalem, replacing Archbishop Pietro Sambi who last month was named to Washington.
Franco, 68, had been the nuncio in the Philippines since 1999.
Benedict has been following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in trying to improve Jewish-Catholic relations.
On Monday, Benedict expressed pain and worry over outbreaks of anti-Semitism in the world and called on Jews and Christians to wage a united battle against hate. His remarks came as he greeted Rome Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni and his delegation in an audience at the Vatican.
Benedict became the second pope in history - after John Paul - to visit a Jewish house of worship when he went to the synagogue in Cologne, Germany, last summer during his first trip abroad since being elected pontiff in April.
The Cologne synagogue visit appeared to help smooth over Israeli-Vatican tensions that were sparked when Israel publicly took Benedict to task for not mentioning attacks on Israelis during a condemnation of terrorism.