First UJA organization will meet the pope

The pontiff called the meeting, which took place at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, "another step in the direction of strengthening the spirit of understanding between Jews and Catholics."

"For the good of the human family, it is crucial at this time that all believers work together to build structures of genuine peace," he added.

The delegation included some 20 members of the UJA's Chicago Prime Minister's Mission, headed by Steve Barnett.

Participants called the meeting "personal and special" — but they observed that the pontiff appeared frail.

Carole Solomon, UJA national campaign chairman, flew from New York for the audience.

"It was an extraordinary experience," she told JTA. "Very moving."

She termed the meeting "historic" in that it "recognized the validity and power" of what the UJA represents.

The pope has made clear that he wants to visit the Holy Land before or during the year 2000, when Christianity celebrates its millennium.

Encouraging him to make the trip, Barnett said such a visit would be a "historic event of profound meaning to both of our peoples and to the entire world."