Pope Benedict XVI has met for the first time with a Saudi Arabian monarch, the controversial King Abdullah. A carefully worded communique from the Vatican avoids an mention of the human rights issues that have caused outrage among campaigners.
However, there are coded references to moral values and to minority communities, specifically the hard-pressed Christian one.
The Holy See said yesterday: "Today in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, the Holy Father Benedict XVI met with King Abdallah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. The sovereign subsequently went on to meet with Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
"The meetings took place in a cordial atmosphere and provided an opportunity to consider questions close to the heart of both sides. In particular, the commitment to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue aimed at peaceful and fruitful coexistence between individuals and peoples was reiterated, as was the importance of collaboration between Christians, Muslims and Jews for the promotion of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values, especially in support of the family.
"The Vatican authorities expressed their hope for the prosperity of all the inhabitants of the country, and mention was made of the positive and industrious presence of Christians."
"Finally, views were exchanged on the situation in the Middle East and on the need to find a just solution to the conflicts affecting the region, especially that between Israelis and Palestinians."