Pope offers to meet soldiers' families

Former Chief Rabbi: Meeting will help keep kidnappings on public's agenda.

pope benedict XVI 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
pope benedict XVI 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Pope Benedict XVI offered to meet with the families of the three kidnapped soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in a letter to former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. In the letter, the pope also told of his failed attempt to make contact with the kidnappers to gather information on the captives' conditions. "The only reply received was that such information would by made available within the context of negotiations," wrote Pietro Parolin, Undersecretary for Relations with States, in the name of the pope. Miki Leibowich, who heads a special council working for the release of the soldiers, said that the families were willing to meet with anyone who could help in any way to secure the release of the soldiers. "We still have to iron out the technical details of the meeting," added Leibowich. Lau said that the meeting would help keep the kidnapping in the public's consciousness. Lau, currently the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, added that Hizbullah's refusal to provide a sign of life was not surprising. "It is par for the course for an organization like Hizbullah that scoffs at international law and the Geneva Conventions," he said. Lau hoped that Hizbullah would nevertheless acquiesce to the pope's request to permit a Red Cross representative to visit the soldiers. "It would be an opportunity for Hizbullah to repair damaged relations after the pope's speech on Islam," said Lau, referring to Benedict XVI's University of Regensberg speech after which the pope was attacked by the Muslim world for quoting from an ancient text that sharply criticized Islam's policy of forced conversion.