ROME ( - Jordan's King Abdullah told an Italian Catholic magazine this week that he welcomed Pope John Paul II's upcoming visit to the Holy Land next week and that he hoped that one day Jerusalem could be the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state.

Abdullah told Famiglia Cristiana magazine, "The city must remain the symbol of peace and hope for the whole region and must not be the exclusive capital of one people at the expense of the other." He added, "We believe that in Jerusalem, there is room for two capitals of two independent states. We believe that religion should not be used as a division regarding the future status of the city, but should have the function of uniting everyone in peace and harmony."

The status of Jerusalem, which both Israel and Palestinians claim as their respective capitals, remains a major sticking point in Middle East peace negotiations. The Holy Father, who will visit the Holy Land next week, is expected to refrain from supporting one side or the other in the dispute.

Asked whether he feared that the Pope's pilgrimage could be charged with political significance, Abdullah said: "I believe that over and above the religious and spiritual significance of the visit, there will be something more which will make a lot of people talk -- something that could be truly political in the sense that this visit will also be a symbol of the comprehension that exists between the followers of Islam and those of Christianity."