The Vatican intends to officially recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a "state," senior Foreign Ministry officials implied Wednesday.
A declaration on the issue was formulated today with representatives of the PA, sources said, and is expected to be signed in the coming days. It will make clear that the Holy See has decided to change the diplomatic relations, which were so far with the PLO, and instead establish official relations with "Palestine" as a sovereign state.
The Vatican technically welcomed the decision of the UN General Assembly in 2012 for recognition of a Palestinian state, but had never formally expressed congratulations on the subject or changed its policies. The agreement being formulated, if true, will be the first legal document which will constitute official recognition of the "Palestinian state."
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected meet with Pope Francis over the weekend to finalize details.
"Israel heard with dismay the decision of the Holy See to agree on a final version of the agreement with the Palestinians, including the use of the term 'Palestinian state," the Foreign Ministry stated Wednesday. "This decision does not advance the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership further from returning to direct negotiations."
"Israel will learn from this agreement and consider its next steps accordingly," it warned.
Pope Francis's recognition of "Palestine" is not the first time he has stirred controversy regarding Israel.
Just days ago, he declared that the Vatican would canonize "Palestinian saints."
And in May 2014, he called the Palestinian Authority (PA) the "state of Palestine."
Later in the visit he made an unexpected stop at the security barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in Judea to pray at a section with "Pope we need to see someone to speak about justice. Bethlehem look (sic) like Warsaw ghetto. Free Palestine" spray-painted on it.