President Peres meets Pope Francis and Italian PM Letta

President Peres meets Pope Francis and Italian PM

    Your appointment as Pope is a welcome message to the whole world. Your leadership is characterized by humility, the pursuit of peace and not by force. ​​
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    President Shimon Peres meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican President Shimon Peres meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman
    President Shimon Peres meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican (Photo: GPO/Mark Neiman)
    (Communicated by the Office of the President)

    President Shimon Peres, on Tuesday, 30 April 2013, conducted a historic visit to the Vatican and held a first diplomatic meeting with Pope Francis.

    At the beginning of the meeting President Peres congratulated the new Pope and said, "Your appointment as Pope is a welcome message to the whole world and not just to Catholics. Your leadership is characterized by humility, the pursuit of peace and not by force. Your leadership creates a new spirit of hope for peace, of dialogue between nations and of the promotion of a solution to global poverty and illiteracy. Sadly, there are many religious leaders in the Middle East and across the world who advocate terror and bloodshed and do so in the name of the Lord. We all have an obligation to stand up and say, in a loud and clear voice, that the Lord did not give anyone the authority to murder and carry out bloodshed. Your voice has a great impact in this matter."

    Pope Francis thanked President Peres for his words and expressed his agreement and support. The Pope suggested creating a global meeting of hope with the heads of all the world's faiths and to come out against violence and terror.

    During the meeting Pope Francis raised the issue of anti-Semitism in the world and made clear that anti-Semitism contravenes the beliefs of Christianity and that it must be opposed in every country in the world and every corner of the globe. Pope Francis asked to hear from President Peres about the state of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and the situation in the wider Middle East.

    President Peres said, "The Middle East is disintegrating, it is in a real existential danger – a severe lack of employment, of food and of water. If those existential problems are not solved then violence and terror will gain a central place, as dangerous weapons fall into the hands of extremists. Iran is developing nuclear weapons for mass destruction and Syria is housing huge quantities of chemical weapons. I fear for the fate of the people of Iran and Syria under their current fanatical leadership." President Peres added that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons and that Syrian chemical weapons must not fall into irresponsible hands.

    President Peres reiterated that the great hope in the Middle East is peace and welcomed the meeting between the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League in Washington, "I believe that there is chance to open negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that Abu Mazen is a genuine partner for peace. The ministers of the Arab League once again expressed their support for the two-state solution, which is also accepted by us and a broad structure of support is being created for making progress."

    President Peres said to Pope Francis, "You have an important role in progressing peace and the belief in it, I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world."

    At the end of the meeting President Peres invited Pope Francis to come for an official state visit in Israel and said, "I would like to invite you to visit the Holy Land. I am sure that you will be received warmly by all the citizens, regardless of religion, race or nationality. The citizens of Israel see in you a leader of peace and good will. The sooner you visit the better as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace." Pope Francis thanked President Peres for the invitation and said that he greatly wishes to visit Israel and would try to find a time to do so in the near future.

    President Peres was welcomed in the Vatican with a honor guard of the Swiss Guard and took part in a ceremony of gift exchanges with Pope Francis during which he gave to the pope a Bible which was specially bound for him and on it were the words "So that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go" from the Book of Kings. Pope Francis gave President Peres a medal of gold to mark his visit.

  • President Shimon Peres met with Italian PM Enrico Letta

    President Shimon Peres, during his visit to Italy, held a diplomatic working meeting (30 April 2013) with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who took office two days ago. The two discussed the economic solution in Italy and ways out of the current crisis, the Iranian nuclear threat, the ongoing crisis in Syria and the situation in Lebanon, ways to progress the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and strengthening the cooperation between Israel and Italy.
    Meeting of President Peres with Italian PM Letta in Rome
    Meeting of President Peres with Italian PM Letta in Rome
    (Photo: GPO/Mark Neiman)

    Prime Minister Letta began by thanking President Peres for his visit and saying he was happy to host him in a first diplomatic meeting between the two and expressed his hope that he would be able to visit Israel soon. Prime Minister Letta told President Peres that he planned to lead a pro-European government and that he would meet with the leaders of Europe and enter into dialogue with them with the aim of strengthening the cooperation between Italy and the European Union. Prime Minister Letta added that he was facing difficult economic circumstances and low public approval of the political system in Italy. The Prime Minister concluded by saying that he attached great importance to the good relations between Israel and Italy and that in the second half of 2013 he will invite Israel's government ministers to a joint meeting in Rome.

    President Peres congratulated Mr. Letta on becoming Prime Minister and said, "Don't be overly concerned with the economic crisis, I am sure that under your leadership, with your experience and wisdom, you will succeed in navigating Italy out of the current crisis and that economic growth and prosperity will return. Italy is blessed with good people, quality industry and creativity – all this will help Italy out of the current crisis." President Peres discussed with Prime Minister Letta the steps his government took when Israel was faced with an economic crisis during the 1980s which included inflation of over 400% and stressed the importance of investment in science, advanced technology and joint research projects between countries. President Peres added that Israel sees great importance in the relations with Italy and that trade between the countries this year had reached $4.2 billion.
    President Peres also discussed the Iranian attempts to develop nuclear weapons, the fact that Iran is an obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East. President Peres told Prime Minister Letta that nuclear weapons in Iranian hands would be a clear danger not only to the Middle East but to the entire world including the capitals of Europe. The two also discussed the danger of the transfer of Syrian weapons and President Peres stressed his belief that President Assad is no longer an alternative since he had become a murdered of his own people.

    The two leaders also discussed the peace process and President Peres said that the visit of the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League to Washington is positive and provides fresh impetus to progressing the peace process towards the agreed upon solution of two states for two peoples, "The differences between us and the Palestinians are not great, Abu Mazen is a genuine and serious partner for peace and Israel is ready to return to the negotiating table without preconditions so that all the issues which remain open between our two nations can be discussed."
    At the end of the meeting the two leaders delivered joint statements to the press which focused on the importance of the continuing and strengthening the excellent relations between Italy and Israel.