ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome  

Olmert and Pope Discuss Peace, Catholics in Israel
Prime Minister Urges Protest Against Holocaust Denials

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met Benedict XVI for the first time and the two discussed Mideast peace and the situation of Catholics in Israel.

After his 20-minute audience with the Pope today, Olmert met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the undersecretary.

"In the course of the discussions," the Vatican press office explained in a note, "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."

Later, at a press conference, the prime minister said that he invited Benedict XVI to travel to Israel and that the Holy Father surprised him "with his great knowledge of the region."

In statements to the press later, Cardinal Bertone said that the meeting with Olmert was "very positive" and that "the visit to Israel and to the Holy Land is in the Pope's heart but, as we know, it can only take place in conditions of peace or at least of a stable and safe truce."

Olmert asked the Pope to continue to insist that Christians protest against the denial of the Holocaust, in the wake of a conference in Tehran, Iran, that encouraged such denial.

The Holy See issued a communiqué on Tuesday stating that the Holocaust was an "immense tragedy," and a warning for consciences at this time.