Netanyahu meets with Pope Francis, invites him to Israel.

Pope Francis I and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Rome on December 2, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90/Times of Israel)

Pope Francis I and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Rome on December 2, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90/Times of Israel)

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday morning with Pope Francis at the Vatican and presented the pontiff with a copy of his late father’s book about the Spanish Inquisition,” reports the Times of Israel. “Netanyahu’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, was an Israeli historian who died last year. A Zionist activist who opposed partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews, he was best known in academic circles for his research into the Catholic Church’s medieval inquisition against the Jews of Spain.”

“To his Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage,” the Israeli leader wrote on the inside cover of the book.

“Francis thanked him and presented Netanyahu with a small bronze plaque of St. Paul,” noted the Times. “The Vatican Press Office said the conversation touched on ‘complex political and social situation in the Middle East, with Particular reference to the reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, expressing hope that a just and lasting solution respecting the rights of both parties may be reached as soon as possible.’ According to Ynet, Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife told the Holy See after the meeting, ‘We’re expecting you, we can’t wait.’ The paper quoted Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi saying that the Pope had yet to set a date to visit the Holy Land.”

The Times also reported that “later Monday, Netanyahu met with Italian Premier Enrico Letta and warned that Iran represented a threat to Europe and the entire world if it acquires nuclear weapons. Letta, for his part, announced that Italy had set aside funding to build a Holocaust museum in Ferrara, and invited Netanyahu to join him for the inauguration. The encounter was the prime minister’s first with the current pope, who has already met at the Vatican with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in October and with Israeli President Shimon Peres in April. Netanyahu met with the previous pope, Benedict XVI, in 2009, and with pope John Paul II in 1997. Citing an anonymous official Israeli source, CNN reported last week that the pope was scheduled to make his first visit to Israel in May. The Vatican has not confirmed that report. Six government ministers joined Netanyahu on the trip and were set to meet with Italian ministers.”

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