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. Mgr Fouad Twal greeted 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 13 May 2015. The outcome of its work, conducted by Undersecretary for Inter-State Relations, Msgr Antoine Camilleri, and Palestinian Ambassador Rawan Sulaiman, deputy minister for foreign affairs, will soon be presented to the concerned authorities and a date of signature will be fixed.

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

Mgr Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, warmly greeted 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 to our side. This announcement, which came on the eve of canonization of two of our daughters of Palestine, will encourage us to go forward, and to be determined 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 since decades, as read 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. The remains to be seen if the agreement with Palestine, declared yesterday, will have an impact on the lengthy bilateral negotiations running between the Holy See and the State of Israel which do not easily move forward.

If the recognition of the State of Palestine by the Vatican is a new fact, the declaration on Wednesday 13 May brings nevertheless new components. The diplomatic agreement and its forthcoming signature stand 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, said Mgr Antoine Camillerie, 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 was not made public, presented the main aspects. 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, statute of Holy Places, protection of its social and charitable activities, the right to promote her means of communication. A chapter is also devoted to financial matters and to properties, points out the Undersecretary for Inter-State Relations, to Holy See daily. The latter 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