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Pope Francis meets with Israel's Netanyahu

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pope Francis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a closed-door meeting at the Vatican. The two discussed highly political matters. The meeting is being seen as an example of the pontiff's increasing willingness to weigh in on global affairs.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Netanyahu talked with Francis about the Iranian nuclear program, according to the Israeli government. Also discussed were negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, coupled with the fate of Christians living in the Holy Land - and throughout the Middle East.

Francis' had held an earlier private meeting at the Vatican last week with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

"During John Paul II's declining years, and throughout Benedict XVI's papacy, the Vatican was more quiet," James Walston, a political scientist with the American University of Rome says. "Francis is starting to show he's willing to be a lot feistier."

Francis, in the nine months he has been pope, has been highly outspoken about the need for Catholics to do more to help the needy. He also says that Catholics must focus on inviting people of all faiths to seek solace and direction from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Francis has increasingly waded into political matters, much more so than his predecessors. He has questioned whether the church was putting too much emphasis on church stands against abortion and gay marriage. Francis has also called for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war rather than for the ouster of dictator Bashar Assad, whose forces have killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Francis has also taken a slightly unpopular stance by stressing the importance of governments to combat "unfettered" capitalism and a "culture of prosperity."

This has rankled Catholics who favor the defeat of militancy in the Middle East, as well as legal protections for unborn children.

"I think the pope is already bringing his message of love and morals and transparency to the church, and if he can do that in the Middle East as well, it can only be good," the Rev. Antonio Mozzicone said. Mozzicone was in St. Peter's Square as the meeting between Netanyahu and Francis was taking place.

A retired history teacher from a Roman Catholic school, But Lorenza Sensi, disagreed. "He [the pope] is a good man, a holy man, but I believe the church would be better off if he kept his focus on religious and church issues where he is desperately needed," Sensi said.

Netanyahu intends to invite the pope to come to Jerusalem next year. If the trip happens, Francis will be just the fourth pope to visit Israel, which the Vatican recognized as a state only 20 years ago.

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