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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saudi King Visits Pope At Vatican

VATICAN CITY -- The king of Saudi Arabia met with Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday -- the first ever between a pontiff and a reigning Saudi monarch -- amid Vatican concerns about restrictions on Christian worship in the Muslim kingdom.

The Vatican said the "positive presence and work of Christians was raised" during the talks between Benedict and King Abdullah, who is protector of Islam's holiest sites.

The talks were "warm" and allowed a wide discussion on the need for interreligious and intercultural dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews "for the promotion of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values, especially in support of the family," the Vatican said in a statement.

Both sides also emphasized the need for a "just solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Vatican said.

Benedict has said he wants to reach out to all countries that still do not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which include Saudi Arabia and China.

At the same time, Benedict and other Vatican officials have often protested that Christians are unable to worship openly in Saudi Arabia and are barred from opening churches in the desert kingdom.

At the end of the meeting, Abdullah presented Benedict with a traditional Middle Eastern gift -- a golden sword studded with jewels -- as well as a gold and silver statue of a palm tree and man riding a camel.