by our Rome correspondent DIPLOMATIC contrasts clouded an otherwise "highly cordial" meeting last weekend between Pope John Paul II and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
The Vatican is thought to have tried to "play down" Peres' comments after his 45 minute talk, in English, with John Paul. Peres said that he had issued an official invitation from the Israeli government to the Pope to visit Jerusalem and that within "a matter of months" the Holy See and the Jewish state would exchange "special diplomatic representatives" the first step to full diplomatic relations. The Pope himself later conceded that a visit to Jerusalem was "possible" but Holy See diplomats foresee only a "long-term" solution to the question of diplomatic relations.
In London, Church leaders, including Cardinal Hume and the Archbishop of Canterbury, met at Lambeth Palace to plan a major statement on Christian/Jewish relations, to be published in December.
The Holy See is requesting free access to holy sites in Jerusalem for all three of the monotheistic faiths Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is also promoting a peaceful solution both to the Palestinian question and to the controversy over Israel's presence in the Occupied Territories. There has been no recent mention of a fourth request for international status for Jerusalem.
Peres went on to say that the Pope "was moved close to tears" when be issued Israel's invitation for him to visit Jerusalem.