Senior Israeli politician Shimon Peres said on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI had told him he hoped he would be able to visit the Holy Land next year.
Peres, a senior Kadima party politician, discussed the Middle East situation with the German-born Benedict during a 40-minute meeting at the Vatican and said he relayed an invitation from Interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
“He indicated he may do it in the first part of next year,” Peres told a news conference after the papal audience. “I do believe his visit can have an impact on the peace process as well.”
The late Pope John Paul II made an historic trip to the Holy Land in 2000.
Peres said he found the pope extremely well-informed about the situation in the Middle East and concerned about terrorism in the world.
A visit to Israel by Benedict would be particularly significant because of his German background.
Benedict has pledged to continue his predecessor’s work toward Catholic-Jewish reconciliation and is due to visit the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during a visit to Poland in late May.
During his visit to Germany last August, Benedict visited a synagogue that had been destroyed by the Nazis before the start of World War II.
Benedict served briefly in the Hitler Youth during the war when membership of the Nazi paramilitary organization was compulsory. But he was never a member of the Nazi party and his family opposed Hitler’s rule.