Debate simmers over whether pope called Abbas an ‘angel of peace’

Vatican tells Israel that characterization didn’t happen as reported by the media.

May 19, 2015 19:11
1 minute read.
Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican

Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The question whether Pope Francis called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” when they met on Saturday continued to reverberate on Tuesday, with Israeli officials saying the Vatican denied this is how the pope characterized Abbas.

Israeli representatives officially approached the Vatican and asked for a clarification, one official said, adding that the Vatican said the remarks as widely reported were not stated.

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Francis met with Abbas at the Vatican and presented him with a large bronze medallion representing the angel of peace, one of his customary gifts to visiting presidents.

According to a reporter representing several news agencies at the meeting, the Argentinean pontiff – speaking in Italian – received Abbas at the papal apartments and said the medallion was an appropriate gift because “you are a bit of an angel of peace.”

There were conflicting reports whether the pope urged Abbas to be an “angel of peace” or if he had described him as such.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he had not heard the remarks himself and had nothing to add to the words attributed to the pope by the pool reporter.

“It is clear that there was no intention to offend anyone,” Lombardi told Reuters.

Francis and Abbas, who met last year with former president Shimon Peres in an unprecedented interreligious event at the Vatican, had a “very colloquial” exchange as they exchanged gifts, Lombardi said in a statement.

“In any case, the sense of encouraging a commitment to peace was very clear and I believe that the very gift of the symbol of an angel of peace was made by the pope with this intention as well as previous presentations of the same gift to presidents, not only to Abbas,” Lombardi said.sign up to our newsletter

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