(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minster Ariel Sharon’s remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 3 April 2005:

“On behalf of the Government and the State of Israel, I would like to express condolences on the passing of Pope John Paul II, and to share in the mourning of millions of Christians and believers in both the State of Israel and around the Christian world.

Pope John Paul II was a man of peace and a friend of the Jewish people, who was familiar with the uniqueness of the Jewish people and who worked for an historic reconciliation between the peoples and for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican in late 1993.

I was fortunate to meet the pope in 1999, when I served as foreign minister and had traveled, on behalf of the government, to invite him to attend the millennium celebrations.  At my meeting with him, I felt the pope’s warm and admiring relations toward the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Yesterday, the world lost one of the most important leaders of our generation, whose great contribution to rapprochement and unity between peoples, understanding and tolerance will be with us for many years."