Pope Francis in pro-Israel crosshairs over Palestinian statehood, Abbas meeting

May 20, 2015 by Sean Savage - JNS.org
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Controversy is swirling over conflicting reports as to whether or not the Pope Francis called Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” during a meeting at the Vatican on Saturday.

From: Sean Savage/JNS.org

On May 25, 2014, Pope Francis touches the wall that separates Israel from the disputed Palestinian territories on his way to lead a mass in Bethlehem. The pope's stop at the Israeli security fence, which led to a photo-op next to anti-Israel graffiti, was unscheduled and ignited a media firestorm at the time. Credit: Nour Shamaly/POOL/Flash90.

On May 25, 2014, Pope Francis touches the wall that separates Israel from the disputed Palestinian territories on his way to lead a mass in Bethlehem. The pope’s stop at the Israeli security fence, which led to a photo-op next to anti-Israel graffiti, was unscheduled and ignited a media firestorm at the time. Credit: Nour Shamaly/POOL/Flash90.

Pope Francis, who canonized two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine, met with Abbas at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, where he presented the PA leader with a bronze medallion and explained that it represented the “angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war,” purportedly adding it was appropriate because “you are an angel of peace.”

The pontiff’s statement was roundly criticized by the Israeli government pro-Israel commentators.

“For the pope to say something that is so patently false damages his credibility,” wrote Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine. “Abbas may be many things but he is no angel as well as not being a champion of peace.”

“Abbas’s career as a merchant of death rather than an angel of peace stretches all the way back to the early 1970s,” wrote media personality Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. “According to Abu Daoud, the mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre that left 11 Israeli athletes murdered, Abbas funded the operation.”

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, “It is regrettable that Mahmoud Abbas uses international forums to attack Israel and refrains from returning to negotiation, which is the right way to implement a diplomatic vision and a solution of peace.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who was present at the meeting between Abbas and Pope Francis, sought to clarify the exchange. He explained that the pontiff often gives foreign leaders a bronze medallion representing the angel of peace and that the pontiff merely meant to encourage a commitment to peace through his comments.

“In any case, the sense of encouraging a commitment to peace was very clear, and I believe that the very gift of the symbol of an angel of peace was made by the pope with this intention, as well as previous presentations of the same gift to presidents, not only to Abbas,” Lombardi said, the Times of Israel reported.

The Vatican drew scrutiny last week for using the term “State of Palestine” in an official treaty with the Palestinians, leading many to question the pope’s commitment to Israel and a negotiated two-state solution.

“We believe that this action by the Vatican, like similar moves by other countries, serves to undermine the prospects for peace, which can only be achieved by direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel,” said Robert Sugarman, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

It wasn’t the first time the pope found himself in the pro-Israel community’s crosshairs. During a visit to Israel, Jordan, and the disputed Palestinian territories last year, Pope Francis was criticized for an unscheduled prayer stop at the security fence separating Israel and Bethlehem. The stop led to a controversial photo-op in which the pontiff touched the fence next to anti-Israel graffiti, essentially giving fodder to pro-Palestinian activists who use the fence as a symbol of their movement.

But some have downplayed the significance of the new treaty, noting that the Vatican supported the Palestinians’ upgraded status at the United Nations in 2012 to “non-member observer state” and has been using the same diplomatic verbiage on a Palestinian state ever since that decision.

“The Vatican has always supported Palestinian statehood, and took the position that it would follow the lead of the U.N. as to when to start referring to it as a fact,” wrote John Allen, Catholic affairs editor for the Boston Globe.

He added, “Perhaps the Vatican’s communication team might want to consider a boilerplate disclaimer in the future. ‘Caution: Not everything contained in the following statement amounts to a revolution.’”


3 Responses to “Pope Francis in pro-Israel crosshairs over Palestinian statehood, Abbas meeting”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Well, if the Pope was at all informed in regard to the history of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, he would realise that destroying Israel as an independent state and replacing with Arab Muslim administration would only mean less access for the Christians to an area they profess to be holy to them. It would seem with his perhaps too glib, or easy, reference to Abbas as an ‘angel of peace’ (to complement his gift, which in itself and by itself is all right) he is also ignorant of more contemporary Middle East history. The question is, is he ignorant or is he pro Palestinians and anti Israel?

    Also, the Christian world view sees Jewish rights forfeited, not only through non-acceptance of Jesus’ divinity, but also through selectively chosen excerpts from the scriptures of the Prophets where Israel is denounced for the bad behaviour of its people, as on occasions they ‘turn away’ from G-d. This is taken up with gusto to prove how undeserving the Jews were, hence their demise, and how, with Christianity coming into being, Judaism is obsolete.

  2. Leon Poddebsky says:

    We need to understand mainstream Christian theology regarding the Jewish People in order to understand the pope’s motives.
    In the Christian world view, the Jews forfeited their right to national dignity and self-determination because they did not accept Jesus’ divinity.
    The existence of the State of Israel is a constant thorn in the side of that theology, but its existence cannot be denied, and therefore the Catholic Church reconciled itself to the reality of Israel.
    Now, however, the Church perceives that world public opinion has become extremely hostile to Jewish national rights in The Land of Israel. Hence the Church believes that Israel’s demise is only a matter of time, and it is riding that wave of hope.
    One of the outward signs of riding it is to lend the Church’s moral support to the forces that aim to destroy Jewish independence, among them, the ‘Palestinian’ Authority. That is why Abbas, the Moslem murderer of a crippled, armchair-bound Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, and the persecutor of Christian Arabs, is “an angel of peace” in the view of His Holiness.

    • Eleonora Mostert says:

      I have to disagree with both Liat and Leon in this matter. Catholics are NOT CHRISTIANS. Judaism IS NOT OBSOLETE for Christians as they also study scripture like you. As a “Christian”, or as I call myself “A Messianic Jew”, I respect all scripture including those you call “selective chosen excerpts from the scripture of the Prophets” to be relevant. Neither God or Bible Believing Christians have forsaken the Jews. As for the land of Israel, it belongs to God and His chosen people and scripture states that it should not be divided. Whoa to those who do, that includes the Pope or anyone for that matter including Jews.. The Pope is according to scripture an abomination in the eyes of God. (God is a jealous God and we are not to call anyone Father but Him, yet the name Pope (Pape) is “Daddy” oops.So How can you even consider calling the Pope “His Holiness”. Then again we are NOT to worship any graven immages. ooops The Catholic Church is riddled with them. They still have Jeshua nailed too the cross…. ooops, He has risen but the Catholics crucify Him every day. Yet according to scripture only His (God’s) Son, Jeshua can forgive sins, but Catholics ask forgiveness from the virgin Mary….. oooops. Yet scripture tells us Mary’s name is actually Miriam. Are we all confused yet??? I could go on, but not all “Christians” have replaced the Jewish Nation but stand tall with you/us/me. As a Messianic Jew I believe the land of Israel is very clearly stated in scripture where it’s boundaries are and that Jerusalem is and always will be her Capital. Perhaps you might like to visit Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaums site “Ariel Ministries or perhaps for Australians visit Manna International who have excellent references for you to read and study regarding as you have called “selective chosen excerpts from the scripture of the Prophets. But please don’t put all Christians in little box. God has given all of us the freedom of choice as to whom and what we believe in. It is up too us to study His word and with His help to understand. To even consider destroying the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel is and would be to destroy their own belief that comes from the Jew. Perhaps you could keep the following in mind. The Jew is the emblem of eternity; He whom neither slaughter nor torture could destroy; He whom neither fire nor sword, nor inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth; He who was the first to produce the oracles of God; He who has been for so long a time the guardian of prophecy, and who has transmitted it to the rest of the world- His nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as eternity itself.

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