Code: ZE07042404

Date: 2007-04-24

Palestinian President Visits Benedict XVI

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2007 ( Benedict XVI and the president of the Palestinian Authority discussed difficulties which Catholics face in the latter's territories and the commitment to relaunch the peace process with Israelis.

The Pope and President Mahmoud Abbas met briefly today in the Vatican and spoke in English, without interpreters.

The Vatican report of the meeting said: "In the course of the cordial discussions, attention turned to the situation in the Middle East.

"Particular appreciation was expressed for the commitment -- thanks also to the help of the international community -- to relaunch the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

"Talks also dwelt upon the internal Palestinian situation with reference, among other things, to the difficulties faced by Catholics, and the value of their contribution to that society."

After Abbas' meeting with the Holy Father, he met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

This was Abbas' second visit to Benedict XVI. The first one was in the Vatican on Dec. 3, 2005, during which the president invited the Pope to visit the Holy Land.