In the last fortnight Pope Francis has been engaged in diplomatic meetings with regard to the situation in the Middle East while meeting seperately the Presidents of Israel and that of Palestine.
On December 3, the Pope met with Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, who subsequently met with the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
On November 15, the Pope received Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The talks stressed “the importance of building mutual trust for the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement respectful of the legitimate aspirations of both peoples”. They had also highlighted Jerusalem as a “City of Peace” whose identity and mission had to be preserved.
In his meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the two leaders acknowledged the good relations between the Holy See and Palestine and the positive role of Christians and the activity of the Church in Palestinian society.
Attention then turned to the path of reconciliation among the Palestinian people, as well as the efforts to reactivate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and to reach a two-state solution, hoping for a renewed commitment on the part of the international community to meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples.
Particular attention was reserved for the status of Jerusalem, underlining the importance of recognizing and preserving its identity and the universal value of the Holy City for the three religions practiced in Jerusalem.
Finally, mention was made of the other conflicts afflicting the Middle East and the urgency of promoting paths of peace and dialogue, with the contribution of the religious communities, to combat every form of extremism and fundamentalism.
This was Mahmoud Abbas’s fifth visit to the Vatican.