The parents and grandparents of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit met Pope Benedict XVI in Jerusalem on Monday and asked the pontiff to use his influence as head of the Catholic Church to advance a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.
During the brief meeting the pope expressed interest in the soldier's life story and said he would do his best to help. Gilad's parents, Aviva and Noam, presented Benedict with an Italian translation of a children's book that was written by their son when he was only 11-years-old, entitled “When the Fish and the Shark First Met”.
Shalit's parents during meeting with pope (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
"I ask that his holiness exert his influence in order to bring our son back to us," Noam Shalit told the pope. "No one has had any access to him (Gilad) for the past three years, and it's been a year since we received the last sign of life from him. We would appreciate it if you would, first and foremost, help us get a sign of life from him."
Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian terrorists during a cross-border raid on an IDF base near Gaza on June 25, 2006.
Prior to his meeting with the Shalit family, Benedict was greeted by President Shimon Peres at his official Jerusalem residence.
During the ceremony Peres said, "This year, the year of your visit here, may reveal an opportunity for us and our neighbors, to attain peace."