by Diane Montagna via Aleteia.org
VATICAN CITY — The Holy See announced on Wednesday that it has concluded an agreement to recognize the State of Palestine, a step welcomed by Palestinians but drawing sharp criticism from Israel.
The agreement, which has been finalized but still must be approved and signed, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine.
According to an official statement issued by the Vatican, Wednesday’s discussions took place “in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.” Both parties acknowledged the work carried out “at an informal level by the joint technical group following the last official meeting held in Ramallah at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine on 6 February 2014.”
The Commission, chaired by Mgsr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, and by Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine, “noted with great satisfaction the progress achieved in formulating the text of the Agreement, which deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”
In an interview with the Osservatore Romano, Mgsr. Camilleri specified that these aspects include: freedom in the Church’s action, her jurisdiction, personal status, places of worship, social and charitable activities, means of social communication, and matter pertaining to finance and property.
However, Msgr. Camilleri also underlined that the agreement also expresses, “the hope for a solution to the Palestinian question and to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as part of the two-state solution and the resolutions of the international community.”
It would be “positive,” the head of the Vatican delegation said, “if the agreement could somehow help the Palestinians to see established and recognized an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine that lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors, while somehow encouraging the international community, especially those most directly affected, to take stronger action to help achieve a lasting peace and to the desired two-state solution.”
However, Israeli officials have criticized the announcement.
“We’re disappointed by the decision taken by the Holy See. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.
A brief statement from the Ministry said: “Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly.”
The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is scheduled to meet Pope Francis this Saturday, one day before the pontiff canonizes two saints from the Holy Land: religious sisters Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Marian Bawardy of Galilee.