Pope Francis. (Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock) (Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock)
Pope Francis

Non-recognition of the Jewish state is tantamount to anti-Semitism, Pope Francis stated, adding that reports that he had called the PA leader an “angel of peace” were inaccurate.

Abbas Pope Francis

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

Pope Francis said on Thursday that not recognizing Israel as a Jewish state was anti-Semitic, and he repeated his denial of media reports in May that he had called the PA leader an “angel of peace.”

In an email message to Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman and the pope’s longtime friend Rabbi Avraham Skorka, the pontiff stated that “whoever does not accept the Jewish people and does not accept the State of Israel, which has a right to exist, is guilty of anti-Semitism.”

Not for the first time, the pope denied that he had called Abbas “an angel of peace,” explaining that he had told the PA leader, in Italian, that he believes he could still become an angel of peace, depending on his commitment to peace.

The media initially reported that the Catholic leader had called Abbas an “angel of peace,” an apparent error in translation.

The Vatican clarified shortly after the meeting that the pope’s phrase was meant to encourage Abbas to pursue peace with Israel.

Abbas Pope Francis

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

The pope did present Abbas with a medallion representing an “angel of peace,” but he often presents such gifts at meetings with heads of state, reports say.

The meeting with Abbas, however, took place just two days after the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine – which does not exist – in a new treaty.

Israel made no official comment on the pope’s “angel of peace” statement but protested Abbas’s use of the meeting as a means to promote his diplomatic agenda.

“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 expressed “disappointment” that the Vatican officially recognized the “State of Palestine” in the treaty, which covers the activities of the Catholic Church in Palestinian-administered 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.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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