Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Katzav received a private audience with the Pontiff on Friday. "I invited His Holiness once again to visit and I told him that such a visit would create a better atmosphere," Katzav told reporters. "The Pope said this trip is on his horizon. Whether that means one year or two years, we don't know." The Pope has often expressed his desire to visit the Holy Land before the year 2000, but sporadic progress in Middle East peace talks have delayed planning for such a trip.
Katzav said the Holy Father repeated his constant belief that "the Jews are the elder brothers of the Christians." He added that they also discussed preparations for the Jubilee Year and the Middle East peace process. The Vatican and Israel first formed diplomatic ties in 1994 and reached landmark agreement last November that clarified the legal status of Catholic institutions in Israel.