PA head Abbas and Pope Francis. (AP/Alberto Pizzoli) (AP/Alberto Pizzoli)
Abbas Pope Francis
Abbas Pope Francis

Pope presents Abbas with a “peace” medallion. (AP/Alberto Pizzoli)

Pope Francis presented Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas with the “Angel of Peace” medallion during a meeting at the Vatican, but made no mention of the PA leader’s continued incitement to violence. 

Pope Francis warmly embraced Palestinian Authority (PA) Chair Mahmoud Abbas during his visit at the Vatican on Saturday, and, according to some news reports, called him an “angel of peace.” It appears, however, that the Pope only wished Abbas success in becoming an angel of peace. Earlier in the week, the Vatican announced that it would recognize the non-existing state of Palestine.

Francis made the compliment during the traditional exchange of gifts at the end of an official audience in the Apostolic Palace. He presented Abbas with a medallion and explained that it represented the “angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war.”

Francis said he thought the gift was appropriate. During his 2014 visit to Israel and the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria), Francis called both Abbas and then-Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.

The meeting underscored the Holy See’s warm relations with the Palestinians as it prepares to canonize two 19th-century nuns from the region. The nuns are referred to as “Palestinians,” although there was no discussion of a distinct Palestinian nation during their life time, during which the land was under Turkish Ottoman rule.

Abbas is in Rome for the canonization, which takes place on Sunday. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity.

Persecution of Christians in PA-Governed Areas

Church officials are holding up the new saints as a sign of hope and encouragement for Christians in the Middle East at a time when violent persecution from Islamic terrorists has driven many Christians from the region of Christ’s birth and when Israel is the only safe haven for Christians in the area. Ironically, since the PA took control in the areas under its governance, the Christian population has shrunk dramatically.

In a statement Saturday, Abbas praised the two new saints as inspirational models for today’s Palestinians and urged their fellow Christians to remain in the region.

“We call on Palestinian Christians to stay with us and enjoy the rights of full and equal citizenship, and bear with us the difficulties of life until we achieve liberty, sovereignty and human dignity,” he said.

Abbas’ visit comes days after the Vatican finalized a bilateral treaty with the “state of Palestine” that made explicit its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The Vatican expressed “great satisfaction” over the new treaty during the talks with the Palestinian delegation. It said the pope, and later the Vatican secretary of state, also expressed hopes that direct peace talks with Israel would resume.

“To this end, the wish was reiterated that with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians may take with determination courageous decisions to promote peace,” a Vatican statement said.

It added that interreligious dialogue was needed to combat terrorism.

Israel Expresses ‘Disappointment’ with Vatican

Israel didn’t comment on Francis’ “angel of peace” compliment, but pointed the finger towards the true reason that the peace talks are at a stalemate – Abbas himself.

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

Israel had expressed “disappointment” that the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine in the treaty, which covers the activities of the Catholic Church in Palestinian territory. “Such a development does not further the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct bilateral negotiations. Israel will study the agreement and consider its next step,” the foreign ministry stated.

Not an Angel of Peace

Abbas, throughout his life, has been far from an “angel of peace.” The theme of his doctoral dissertation was “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” in which he argued that the Holocaust had been exaggerated. He further claimed that those Jews who were murdered by the Nazis were actually victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot.

Abbas provided the funds that facilitated the 1972 Munich massacre during which members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympic Games were taken hostage and which ended in the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches as well as a German policeman by Palestinian terrorists.

No settlers allowed in Palestinian state

PA President Abbas celebrates last year with released terrorists in Ramallah. (Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In 1985, he went into hiding in Yugoslavia after avoiding international justice mechanisms in Rome, which were onset by his involvement with the Achille Lauro hijacking terror attack.

Since taking power in the PA in 2005, Abbas has repeatedly incited to violence and an armed struggle against Israel.

Most recently, the Fatah Advisory Council held a meeting in November, chaired by Abbas, at which it “saluted the heroic mass uprising and the brave spirit which is confronting, with chest bared, the settlement attack on Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” This “heroic mass uprising” has so far claimed several Israeli lives.

“These words reveal, again, the true face of Mahmoud Abbas, the Holocaust denier who talks about a ‘Palestinian state free of Jews,’” then- Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman stated following another incident of incitement by Abbas. Abbas “was, and remains, an anti-Semite wrapped in a nice suit and pleasantries for the international community. Abbas has effectively joined the frontlines of extremist Islamist organizations, such as the Islamic State.”

There are frequent allegations that officials of the PA, and especially Abbas, have systematically embezzled Palestinian public funds. Abbas is perceived as an oppressive tyrant by his own people, and a recent report reveals that the Palestinians are suffering extreme human rights abuses under his government. Abbas has repeatedly postponed democratic elections in the PA, denying the Palestinians the basic right to a democratically elected leadership.

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

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PA head Abbas and Hamas leader Haniyeh together.

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