In something of an about-face, Pope Francis clarified previous statements made regarding Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that he did not call Abbas “an angel of peace”, but hoped that Abbas “would one day become an angel of peace in the future.” The Pope went even further to criticize Israel’s critics, claiming that those who do not see Israel as Jewish are in reality anti-Semitic.
In comments made to veteran Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman last Thursday, Pope Francis was quoted saying, “Anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel and their right to exist, is guilty of anti-Semitism.”
Cymerman, along with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, one of the Pope’s closest interfaith colleagues, approached Pope Francis after the Pope’s meeting with Abbas, to discuss the report that the Pope had called Abbas “an angel of peace.” The Pope thereafter sent his comments to Cymerman and Skorka in writing.
Abbas’s visit to the Vatican came a few days after the Vatican ratified a bilateral treaty with the Palestinian Authority that made explicit its recognition of Palestinian statehood. The treaty drew slews of protests from Israel, and the comments created a media firestorm.
Following the ratification of the treaty, Israel complained that the Palestinians were attempting to achieve statehood in all the wrong places, instead of by going back to the negotiating table.
“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.