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Patriarch Twal welcomes agreement between Holy See and State of Palestine

Patriarch Twal welcomes agreement between Holy See and State of Palestine


PALESTINE/VATICAN: Though the recognition of the State of Palestine by the Holy See is already a fact, the name will appear in an important agreement signed by the two parties. What is more interesting is the content of the future agreement. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal welcomed the progress, expressing his hope for peace and justice to prevail in the region.

The Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine concluded its works at the end of a plenary meeting on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The talks were chaired by  Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States. and Palestinian Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of the State of Palestine.

“Both Parties 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.”

Since November 2012, following a vote giving Palestine the status of non member Observer State at the United Nations, the Vatican uses the  “State of Palestine” in all its official documents, in press releases relating to the country, as for example in the official program of the trip of Pope Francis to the Holy Land in May 2014.  President Mahmoud Abbas twice went  to the Vatican since UN vote, and was each time received and officially named “President of the State of Palestine”.  It was in this context that he was warmly received on Saturday, May 16 by Pope Francis, before attending the May 17 canonization of two Palestinian saints Mariam Baouardy  and Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas.

His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, welcomed the “progress to facilitate the life and work of the Church in Palestine”. This agreement, according to the Patriarch, “is also a sign of hope and one more consolation for Palestinian people, an additional progress in the way of justice and therefore of peace. Notwithstanding the enormous difficulties, which are ours in the region, we do not stand alone on the international scene. The Holy See and also the whole world are little by little standing by our side. This announcement, which comes on the eve of the canonization of two of our daughters of Palestine, will encourage us to go forward, with determination in our faith for a possible peace for everybody despite the circumstances.  Peace will never occur for one people alone.” He added: “We hope that, once the agreement is signed, the Arab League will also be present, and that it will serve as an example for other countries”.

The Vatican is in favor of a two-state solution for decades, as expressed in the speeches of the Popes, official documents and common agreement on questions relating to the daily life of Christian communities in the Holy Land. It remains to be seen if the agreement with Palestine, declared yesterday, will have an impact on the lengthy bilateral negotiations between the Holy See and the State of Israel which do not easily move forward.

If the Vatican’s recognition of the State of Palestine  is a new fact, the declaration on May 13  brings nevertheless new components. The diplomatic agreement and its forthcoming signing stands for an important extra step, so that the name “State of Palestine” appears on a key document of vital importance, touching several concrete aspects of the life of the Catholic Church in Palestine. As in all agreements signed by the Holy See with other States, Mgr. Antoine Camilleri stated to Osservatore Romano, “the aim is to facilitate the life and action of the Catholic Church, and its recognition on the juridical level, in order to make service to society yet more solid”.

Mgr. Camilleri, without disclosing the agreement which has not been made public, presented the highlights. The introduction and the first chapter of the text include the principles and the basic regulations securing a framework for collaboration between the two sides. “The wish for example is being expressed to see a solution to the Palestinian cause and to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in the framework of a two-state solution and resolutions of the international community”. Then another chapter follows “very elaborate and detailed” on the religious and conscience freedom. There are as well further chapters on different aspects of the life and action of the Church in Palestinian territories; its freedom of action, its staff, its jurisdiction, statutes of Holy Places, protection of its social and charitable activities, the right to promote its means of communication. A chapter is also devoted to financial matters and to properties, points out the Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States.  He also brought up the “unique value” of such an agreement, which “handles the presence of the Church in the country where Christianity was born”.


Myriam Ambroselli