.- The Press Office of the Holy See released a short statement today confirming that Pope Benedict XVI met with Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert at the Vatican. The Vatican’s brief communiqué stated that the Pope and Prime Minster discussed peace in the Middle East and the status of Christians in the area.
“In the course of the discussions,” the release stated, “attention turned to the matter of peace in the Middle East, and to questions regarding the position of the Catholic community in Israel, also in view of the forthcoming Christmas celebrations."
Sources in Olmert's entourage told Italian news service ANSA that the Israeli premier also raised this week’s Tehran Holocaust conference with the Pope, asking him to condemn it personally.
The Vatican has released a statement criticizing the Iranian conference, which is aimed at questioning the occurrence of the Holocaust. The Vatican called the death of millions of Jews during World War II an "immense tragedy" which should never be forgotten and restated the Holy See’s continued condemnation of the tragedy.
"The recollection of those tragic acts must be held up as a warning to all in an effort to end all conflicts," the statement said.
According to Israeli sources, Olmert also renewed his country's invitation for the Pontiff to visit soon, saying a visit would help bring peace to the region.
Benedict's response was reportedly that he wanted to make a pilgrimage to Israel's holy sites but at a time when the situation in the region was calmer and less complex.
Israeli ambassador Oded Ben Hur told ANSA on Tuesday that "Olmert's visit is another brick in the construction we are working on patiently. The meeting serves to reiterate the importance for us of the Christian community in Israel.”