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The President expressed his distress over the wave of anti-Semitism which has swept the world. The Pope agreed with the President on the issue, noting that those who seek to threaten Israel's existence are rooted in anti-Semitism.


President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Thursday, September 3) visited the Vatican and held a private meeting with Pope Francis. He was welcomed to the Vatican in an official reception which included a traditional honor guard of the Vatican's Swiss Guard and then received by Prefect of the Papal Household, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, before going on to hold a private meeting with Pope Francis. Afterwards President Rivlin met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.


The meeting between President Rivlin and Pope Francis took place in the Pope's private library and lasted for around an hour. The meeting began with an exchange of gifts during which the President presented the Pope with a stone tablet bearing the Aramaic inscription "House of David", a copy of the stele found at the entrance of the ancient city of Dan in the north of the Hula Valley, dating back to around the ninth century BCE.


The President said, "I wanted to present you with this inscription, as a symbol of hope and living together, for all faiths." Pope Francis warmly thanked the President for what he noted was a moving and symbolic gift.


The inscription contained the earliest known reference outside of Scripture to "Beit David", the "House of David", and refers to events mentioned in Chronicles II (Chapter 22), in Kings II (Chapters 8-9). The original inscription is now located at the Israel Museum. This replica, with the Aramaic words 'House of David' highlighted in gold - was made in honor of Pope Francis, to mark the visit of President Rivlin to the Vatican.


The gift was chosen in particular as an expression of the deep roots shared by Judaism and Christianity, and as King David is regarded by both Judaism and Christianity as the founder of the House of David, revered in tradition as being from which would come the redemption of humanity, and from whom the Messiah would be descended.


Pope Francis presented the President with a bronze coin, bearing an image of intertwined olive branches, symbolizing the shared responsibility of all states and nations, to work for the sake of peace. The gift included a personal dedication to the President which read, "To seek that which unites, and to overcome that which divides."


During the meeting with Pope Francis which lasted around an hour, the two spoke about a wide range of issues, including the Pope's ability to bring people together, and act as a mediator in the case of conflicts around the world, and the conflict in the Middle East in particular. They spoke about the urgent need to rebuild confidence as a prerequisite to the renewal of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The President said, "I said to the Pope that I see in him a bridge, and asked of him to serve as such in the most difficult of places for mediation, where there no trust exists between the parties."


In their discussions the President expressed his distress and concern over the wave of anti-Semitism which had swept the world, and noted that any call for the destruction of Israel was rooted in anti-Semitism, which the whole world needed to condemn and overcome.


The Pope agreed with the President on the issue, and said that anti-Semitism should be seen as an evil ill, while all those who sought to threaten Israel's existence were rooted in anti-Semitism.


The President explained to the Pope about his visit last week to the area in the Jordan Valley known as 'Land of the Monasteries' due to the plethora of churches and monasteries surrounding the traditional baptism site on the Jordan River, where according to Christian tradition, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The area has recently become the subject of a joint initiative by the Israeli security services in partnership with the Nature Reserves Authority, with the cooperation of Christian community leaders, aimed at developing the area to improve access for pilgrims and visitors.


The President said, I told the Pope that the initiative has the potential to bring together the peoples of the region - Jordanians, Israelis, and Palestinians, and all those of faith - Christians, Muslims, and Jews."


Notably moving during the meeting, was the President's explanation to the Pope of his childhood memories, walking down to the Western Wall to hear the traditional sounding of the Shofar (ram's horn) at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, which had to be done in secret. The President said to the Pope, "There and then, I promised myself that I would fight so that no one should feel as I did then, and that I would do all within my power to ensure that the ability of each person to freely express their faith was an accepted fact."


Also during their meeting the President updated the Pope on the progress toward reaching a solution in the financial crisis surrounding the Christian schools in Israel, and assured him that all the relevant authorities were doing everything possible to find a solution as soon as possible.


Later on Thursday, the President was scheduled to hold a working meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and address a special event at the Great Synagogue, hosted by the Jewish community.


Photo :President Rivlin meets with Pope Francis
Copyright: GPO/Haim Zach