Vatican to formally recognize Palestinian State

FFN_Pope_Francis_SGP_011514_51305536The Vatican announced yesterday a formal agreement declaring the Holy See’s recognition of the State of Palestine had been reached and would be signed in the near future.  Vatican officials were quick to respond to both praise and criticism for the diplomatic gesture.  According to the Vatican, the purpose of normalization was “to enhance the life and activities of the Catholic Church and its recognition at the judicial level.”

Vatican official, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, said:  “(he) hoped the agreement would indirectly help the Palestinian State in its relations with Israel. It would be positive if the accord could in some way help with the establishment and recognition of an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine which lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbors.”

In contrast, some received the news with skepticism and anger.  European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor called the move “unfortunate” and stated:  “(recognition) would diminish the chances of a negotiated peaceful resolution of the conflict and embolden extremists.”  The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman said:  “The treaty was premature and it would undermine a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict.”

The formal recognition is the latest step in the developing relationship between the Vatican and the Palestinian State.  In 2014, just after Francis’ elevation to the Papacy, on a tour of Palestine to stimulate a peaceful solution in the region, he referred publicly to “the State of Palestine” and called for Palestinian statehood.

Will diplomatic recognition from the Catholic Church promote or injure the prospect of a resolution in the troubled region?

Critics charge this Vatican endorsement will hamper the expectation and ambition for a peaceful two-state settlement.  Skeptics speculate any recognition of the Palestinian State will enable the Palestinians to become more recalcitrant at the negotiating table if world opinion ignores their terrorist foundations and views them as a legitimate state.