POPE LEADS PLEAS FOR MIDEAST PEACE

VATICAN, Oct. 11, 00 (CWNews.com) -- During his regular weekly public
audience on Wednesday, Pope John Paul II issued a new call for peace in the
Middle East.

"With deep anguish, we are watching the great tension that exists in the
Middle East, shaken yet again by developments that have produced many
victims, and have not spared the holy places," the Pope said. "In the face of
such a dramatic situation, I can only exhort everyone to put an end to this
spiral of violence, without delay, and to ask all believers to pray to God that
the peoples and the leaders of this region will find a way to resume the
process of dialogue, to regain the joy of knowing themselves to be sons of
God, the Father of us all."

On the evening before the Pope issued that statement, Israel's minister for
regional cooperation, Shimon Peres, met at the Vatican with Cardinal Angelo
Sodano and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran-- the Secretary of State and
Secretary for Relations with States, respectively, at the Holy See. The Vatican
issued a statement about their meeting, reporting that the representatives of
the Holy See had again insisted on an immediate end to armed
confrontations, a return to negotiations, and "respect for the legitimate
aspirations of the two peoples, and of the accords undertaken to date."

After the meeting, Peres told reporters in Rome that an appeal from the
Vatican could be an important influence on the current situation. "The
conflict today has two dimensions, political and religious," he said. "The
Pope's visit to Israel showed that different religions can work together. That
is why the role of the Holy See is important."

"I don't think that the peace process is dead in the Middle East," Peres told
the press. "But it is 'in the hospital,' in critical condition."

Peres stopped at the Vatican during a diplomatic trip that is taking him to
Rome, Berlin, Paris, and London, as he seeks the assistance of the European
community in ending the violence.