Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the Vatican Saturday before inaugurating his country’s new embassy to the Holy See, where he met with Pope Francis for a discussion focused largely on peace efforts in the Middle East.
Described as “cordial” in Jan. 14 communique from the Vatican, the
discussion between the two began by making note of the good relations
they enjoy, which were “sealed” by a Global Agreement made by them in
2015 recognizing the “essential aspects” of the life and activity of the
Church in Palestine.
“In this context, mention was made of the important contribution of
Catholics to favoring the promotion of human dignity and assistance for
those most in need, especially in the fields of education, health and
aid,” the communique read.
Conversation then shifted to the peace process in the Middle East,
and hope was voiced that direct negotiations between the different
parties “may be resumed to bring an end to the violence that causes
unacceptable suffering to civilian populations, and to find a just and
“To this end, it is hoped that, with the support of the international
community, measures can be taken that favor mutual trust and contribute
to creating a climate that permits courageous decisions to be made in
favor of peace.”
An emphasis was also placed on the importance of “safeguarding the
sanctity” of Holy Sites, which are frequently a source of division and
conflict between the different faiths in the area, as well as other
conflicts affecting the region.
After his 23 minute meeting with the Pope, Abbas then met with
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul
Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
He arrived at the Vatican at 10:10a.m. with his 10-15 person
delegation and was met by the Pope, who told him in Spanish “It is a
pleasure to receive you.” The president responded, saying “I am happy to
Pope Francis gifted the president the official medal for the Jubilee
of Mercy as well as a copy of Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si, telling
Abbas they had been translated.
For his part, Abbas gave the Pope five gifts: an icon of the face of
Jesus, a stone from the site of Golgotha in the Holy Sepulcher in
Jerusalem, a golden icon of the Holy Family, the book “Palestine and the
Holy See” and a documentation of the work being done in restoring the
Basilica of the Nativity.
When they sat down at the desk before the start of the meeting, the
Pope told Abbas “things are arriving to me (from your area), and at a
certain point in the discussion the president spoke to the Pope about
the new embassy, telling Francis it’s a “sign that the Pope loves the
Palestinian people and loves peace.”
The president was in Rome to inaugurate the new Palestinian embassy
to the Holy See, just one year after the Holy See-Palestine agreement,
signed May 13, 2015, took effect and made official the Holy See's
recognition of the State of Palestine.
The fact that the Holy See referred to its agreement with “the State
of Palestine” rather than the Palestinian Liberation Authority or
another title, immediately gained international attention.
It was hoped that the agreement will encourage the international
community to acknowledge an independent State of Palestine, alongside
In addition to referring to Palestine as a State, the
Vatican-Palestinian agreement also recognized freedom of religion in
Palestine, and outlined the rights and obligations of the Church, its
agencies, and its personnel in the territory.
agreement followed upon a “basic agreement” that was signed in February
The bilateral commission was established after the Holy See and the
Palestine Liberation Organization strengthened official relations. After
the 2000 agreement, negotiations between the parties picked up again in
2010, with the aim of completing the basic agreement.
In his Jan. 9 speech to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy
See Pope Francis renewed his appeal for Israel and Palestine to resume
dialogue aimed at “a stable and enduring solution that guarantees the
peaceful coexistence of two States within internationally recognized
“No conflict can become a habit impossible to break. Israelis and
Palestinians need peace. The whole Middle East urgently needs peace!”