By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just weeks
after the Vatican praised Palestine's boosted status as a non-member
observer state at the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI met with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a private audience at the
During the "cordial" talks in the papal library Dec. 17, the two men
discussed the need to restart talks between Israelis and Palestinians in
a way that respects the rights of all parties involved, said a
statement from the Vatican press office.
In discussions about the U.N. vote last month, the Vatican said it was
hoped Palestine's new U.N. status "will encourage the commitment of the
international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming
negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due
respect to the rights of both," the statement said.
The two leaders also talked about the broader situation in the Middle
East, which is "troubled by numerous conflicts," and expressed hopes
that "the courage for reconciliation and peace will be found," the
Vatican statement said.
The contribution Christian communities can offer in promoting the common
good for the territories and the whole region was also discussed, it
As Abbas arrived, the pope greeted him in English, saying, "Welcome,
it's good to see you." The president replied, "I'm very glad to see you
here again." Abbas had met with the pope at the Vatican in June 2011.
The pope and Abbas spoke privately for 25 minutes before the president
introduced his eight-man delegation. The pope gave Abbas a painting of
the fountains in the Vatican gardens.
Abbas, who is president of the Palestinian National Authority, gave the
pope a picture of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher,
traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and
The pope said, in Italian, "It's very beautiful. Thank you."
The artwork, made up of large painted tiles, had an inscription -- in
English and Arabic -- that said, "Presented by President Mahmoud Abbas
(Abu Mazen) President of the State of Palestine," reporters said.
Reporters traveling with the Palestinian delegation said that "it was
not the first time" Abbas referred to the Palestinian territories as a
Palestinian state since the U.N. General Assembly voted last month to
grant Palestinians observer status.
Abbas' visit to the Vatican was part of a larger "tour of thanks,"
reporters said, expressing gratitude to world leaders for their support
of Palestine's increased status at the United Nations.
Last month, 138 member states voted to boost Palestine's status from
"entity" to "non-member state" -- the same status held by the Holy See
-- in an implicit recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. Israel, the
United States and Canada were among the nine states that voted against
the motion. Forty-one countries abstained.
The Vatican had praised the United Nations vote, but called for full
recognition of Palestinian sovereignty as necessary for peace in the
region. Pope Benedict has repeatedly called for a two-state solution to
"become a reality, not remain a dream."
After meeting the pope, Abbas met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,
Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican
secretary for relations with states.
We seek to keep you literally "updated" on movement in terms of truth and justice in the Middle East in general with a particular eye on Palestine. The links below will take you to various articles and websites that offer the perspective of leaders in the religious, NGO, and human rights communities. Additionally, Al-Bushra, ever vigilant, provides links to regular reporting as well as opinion pieces by journalists. The dates given here indicate when the link was posted; the most recent posting is at the top. Check the article itself for the date the information was released by the source.