Pope encouraged by start of direct negotiations

Pontiff pledges to do whatever in his power to bring about the speedy release of Gilad Schalit at meeting with President Shimon Peres.

Peres Pope Vatican 311 (photo credit: L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO)
Peres Pope Vatican 311
(photo credit: L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO)
Pope Benedict XVI is greatly encouraged by the start of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He voiced this feeling on Thursday at his summer palace where he welcomed President Shimon Peres who is in Italy to attend the political and economic conference that takes place annually in Como with the participation of world leaders in politics, economics and national security.
The Pontiff told Peres that he would pray that the talks between the parties would lead to a successful outcome. A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be an historic breakthrough and would lead to normal relations between Israelis and Palestinians, he said. He was also convinced that such a peace would have a far-reaching impact on the region as a whole, and even on the world.
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Everything possible must be done to advance the peace negotiations and to restore the values that are the foundations for peace, he said.  In addition to political support, the Pope continued, it was important for the negotiators to know that they had spiritual support as well. He called on people of all faiths to mobilize for the sake of peace in the Middle East.
Aside from the peace talks, Peres and the Pope discussed Iran's plans to build a nuclear bomb, the enhancement of relations between Israel and the Vatican and the fact that abducted soldier Gilad Schalit has been deprived of the most basic of human rights. Peres asked for the Pope's help in the effort to secure the freedom of Schalit and to return him to the embrace of his family. Peres met with the soldier's parents Aviva and Noam Schalit on Wednesday evening in Jerusalem, as he was preparing to leave for Rome.
The Pope pledged to do whatever was in his power to bring about the speedy release of Gilad Schalit.