The Vatican has concluded its first treaty that formally recognises the State of Palestine.
The agreement paves the way for the Catholic Church to conduct activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, Reuters reported Thursday, citing the Holy See.
The treaty will be officially signed by the two sides “in the near future”, according to a joint statement.
The agreement “aims to enhance the life and activities of the Catholic Church and its recognition at the judicial level”, said Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister who led its six-person delegation in the talks.
Vatican officials said that although the agreement is significant, it’s not the first time the Holy See has recognised the State of Palestine.
“We have recognised the State of Palestine ever since it was given recognition by the United Nations and it is already listed as the State of Palestine in our official yearbook,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
On Nov. 29, 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising Palestine as an observer non-member state.
This was welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same observer non-member status at the UN.
The treaty announcement comes days before Pope Francis is to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who plans to attend a Mass on Sunday that will make saints of two Palestinian-born nuns who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
During a three-day visit to the Middle East a year ago, Pope Francis delighted his Palestinian hosts by referring to the “state of Palestine”, giving support for their bid for full statehood recognition.
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called the treaty “unfortunate”, saying it would “diminish the chances of a negotiated peaceful resolution of the conflict and embolden extremists”.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said the treaty was “premature” and said it would undermine a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict.
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