The Vatican flag will be raised for the first time at the United Nations on Friday ahead of Pope Francis' address, but there will be no ceremony, the Holy See's mission said Monday, according to AFP.
The United Nations recently voted in favor of allowing the flags of non-member observer states, including the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Vatican, to be raised at its headquarters in New York.
The resolution was championed by the PA and, while the Vatican has largely supported the PA and even the concept of Palestinian statehood, it vehemently and repeatedly opposed its being included in the PA’s fight to have the flag raised in the UN.
The Vatican explained that there was no reason to break with the 70-year practice of raising only the flags of member states.
The Holy See's mission to the United Nations had initially said it had no intention of raising the flag ahead of the pope's visit, but it changed its stance after UN officials made the request, according to AFP.
"The Holy See and the United Nations secretariat have agreed that the flag will be raised with no ceremony" on Friday, said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's UN ambassador.
"UN personnel will raise it at the same time they will raise the other flags that day," he told reporters.
For their part, the Palestinians have invited hundreds of leaders to attend a formal flag-raising ceremony on September 30 in the presence of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who praised the countries which voted in favor of the motion, saying "they have placed themselves on the side of right and justice."
The PA’s envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour said on Monday the flag-raising will be a "glorious day" for the Palestinians, who won backing from 119 countries in favor of the resolution.
The Vatican's ambassador made clear that it was at the United Nations' behest that the flag was being raised.
UN officials "think that the visit of the pope would be a momentous time to have the Holy See flag already raised even though we didn't plan to have it," said Auza, according to AFP.
"They suggested that they could do it themselves without a public ceremony, and of course we accepted that."
Auza said he is planning to attend the PA flag-raising ceremony as the representative of the Vatican, which officially recognized “Palestine” as a state in 2013.
Eight countries including Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia voted against the flag-raising measure, dismissing it as a symbolic gesture that would not serve the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
A total of 45 countries abstained including Germany, Norway and other European nations.