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President Rivlin with Cardinal Sandri.(Photo by: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Rivlin tells Papal diplomat Israel wants to share land with Palestinians
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
10/06/2019
Rivlin who has met with Pope Francis and is aware of the efforts being made by the Vatican to bring about a cessation of hostilities in the Middle East
Israel wants to “share the land and find a way to live together” with the Palestinians, President Reuven Rivlin told Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, one of the highest-ranking Vatican diplomats, when they met at the President’s Residence on Thursday night.

Sandri, who is the Prefect of the Congregations for the Oriental Catholic Churches, came with a delegation that included several Franciscan priests, as well as the Papal Nuncio and the Custos of the Holy Land.

He is in the region to mark the 800th anniversary of the Pilgrimage of Peace to the Middle East by St. Francis of Assisi and his dialogue with the Sultan of Egypt.

Rivlin, who has met with Pope Francis and is aware of the efforts being made by the Vatican to bring about a cessation of hostilities in the Middle East in general and between Israel and the Palestinians in particular, told Sandri that he knows how hard the Vatican is working to find a solution to this century-old tragedy.

Knowing that Sandri is also going to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Rivlin asked him to convey his regards, and noted that Abbas had sent New Year greetings to the people of Israel.

Emphasizing the need to build understanding between Israelis and Palestinians, Rivlin was of the opinion that a valuable asset in this regard was the restoration of the baptismal site at Qasr el-Yahud on the Jordan River near Jericho, where Jesus first met John the Baptist.

The restoration project was approved by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leadership, said Rivlin, who was personally involved in the process.

Sandri said that he had already been there was impressed by the number of baptisms he had witnessed.

He also noted that this was the 25th anniversary year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel, and commented that this was a great step in the history of both the State of Israel and the Vatican. He expressed the hope that this relationship would serve as a bridge to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He also voiced appreciation to Israel for allowing Christians freedom of worship, adding with regret that there are many countries today in which Christians do not have this freedom and are persecuted.

He was pleased to hear Rivlin talking about sharing the land, he said.

The pair talked about more than politics, as Rivlin also used his signature icebreaker. Regardless of whether he’s conversing with a pope, a king, a prime minister or a diplomat, Rivlin cannot refrain from introducing soccer into the conversation.

He said he wanted to ask Sandri an important question, which he had also posed to Pope Francis when they met. Because both are from Argentina, Rivlin surmised that Sandri anticipated a question about Lionel Messi.

But that was not what he wanted to ask, he said. Instead, he asked Sandri, “Who was the better player: Pele or Maradona?”
The delegation, including Sandri, doubled up with laughter.

Guessing that Sandri wanted him to say the Argentinian Maradona, Rivlin apologized and said it had to be the Brazilian Pele because he understood teamwork.

As they left, Sandri said: “We are waiting for the best goal of Israel – peace.”
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