Pope Francis (R) shakes hands with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Pope Francis on Saturday called on Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas to become “an angel of peace” during a meeting in the Vatican, according to the AFP news agency and the Vatican Insider.
The summit took place days after the Vatican said it was willing to sign its first treaty with “Palestine,” an expression of the Holy See’s declared policy of recognizing Palestinian statehood in defiance of Israeli objections.
Abbas and the pope met privately for 20 minutes, according to the report. AFP quotes a statement released by the Holy See calling for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
"The hope was expressed that direct negotiations between the parties be resumed in order to find a just and lasting solution to the conflict,” the statement read.
"To this end the wish was reiterated that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians may take with determination courageous decisions to promote peace."
The pontiff reportedly gave the Palestinian leader a medal with a figure of the angel of peace "which destroys the evil spirit of war.”
"I thought of you: May you become an angel of peace," he told Abbas.
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Israel expressed disappointment Wednesday at the Vatican’s announcement that it reached the outline of an agreement with the Palestinians and at the Holy See’s use of the term “State of Palestine” for the first time in an official document.
The agreement, according to a Vatican statement, “deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.”
Both parties, according to the statement, “agreed that the work of the Commission on the text of the Agreement has been concluded, and that the agreement will be submitted to the respective authorities for approval ahead of setting a date in the near future for the signing.”
This agreement between the Vatican and “Palestine,” according to a source in the Foreign Ministry, does not move the peace process forward “and moves the Palestinian leadership further away from returning to direct bilateral relations.”
Israel, the source said, will study the agreement and then decide on its steps accordingly.
Israel and the Vatican have themselves been unable, after some 16 years of glacial negotiations, to sign an agreement that would deal with matters such as the status of the Catholic Church in Israel, the issue of sovereignty over some 21 sites in the country, and taxation and expropriation issues.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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