On Wednesday, the Vatican finalized a treaty that formally recognizes the State of Palestine. In principle, the Vatican has switched its diplomatic allegiance from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine.
In a move that quickly grew criticism from supporters of Israel, once signed, the treaty will give legal weight to the Holy See’s years long recognition. As expected, Israel’s Foreign Minister expressed deep disappointment in the move, expressing that it will damage the possibility for peace in the region.
This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations,
the ministry said in a text message.
But not all people feel the same way about the new treaty. Many are describing it as a sign of hope. Vatican Foreign Minister, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, said the move was not politically motivated, but was simply in line with the Holy See’s position.
The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,
said Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official.
Recognizing the State of Palestine is mainly a symbolic act, nothing really changes and it will not make the Palestinian Authority into an independent government. Regardless, the Vatican’s formal recognition of the State of Palestine sends a clear message to Israel that the Holy See is displeased with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which it see’s as a major obstacle to Palestinian independence, necessary in a peace treaty.
Although, the Vatican openly supported the UN General Assembly decision to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012, this most recent treaty is considered as official diplomatic recognition and is the first legal document between the Vatican and the State of Palestine.
Only days before Pope Francis is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Vatican said that the treaty aimed to “enhance the life and activities of the Catholic Church and its recognition at the judicial level.” The President of the State of Palestine will be visiting the Vatican on Sunday to attend the canonization of four new saints by the Pope, two of which are Palestinian-born nuns.
The treaty, which will likely solidify relations between the Vatican and Palestinians, mainly concerns the activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine. Hanna Amireh, a presidential aide on church affairs, said the treaty concerned the Vatican’s vast interests in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, including the standing of church courts and taxes on church institutions and lands.
The Vatican’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood, he said, counters images of Palestinians as terrorists and “is recognition of the Palestinian character that has a clear message for coexistence and peace.”
Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Jerusalem, said Pope Francis and his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, want “to create a new reality here.”
And creating a new reality is exactly what Pope Francis has been doing lately, even if it means making controversial diplomatic decisions. Last month, Pope Francis honored the 100th anniversary of the “first genocide of the 20th century,” referring to the Armenian genocide. The Pope expressed his duty to honor the innocent Armenian men, women children, priests and bishops murdered by the Ottoman Turks.
Featured image via Catholic News Service