.- The Vatican issued a statement following the death of Palestinian National Authority president Yasser Arafat, who passed away this morning in a military hospital in Paris at the age of 75, asking for peace in the Holy Land and for âtwo independent and sovereign States, fully reconciled with each other." Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who read the statement, said âthe Holy See joins in the pain of the Palestinian people.â
Arafat, he continued, âwas a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them towards national independence.â
âMay God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land, with two independent and sovereign States, fully reconciled with each other," he said.
Yasser Arafat has met Pope John Paul II 12 times between September 15, 1982 and October 30, 2001, including a meeting in Bethlehem during the Holy Fatherâs pilgrimmage to the Holy Land in March of 2000.
In 1994 the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in order to remain "open channels for continuing the development of mutual relations, understanding and cooperation, gave the âalready long-existing and fruitful working contacts a permanent and official character,â and an office of representation for the PLO was opened at the Holy See.
On February 15, 2000, John Paul II and Arafat signed a Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization dealing with certain juridical questions regarding the Churchâs activity in Palestinian Authority territory.