Pope Benedict XVI makes his pastoral visit to St. Patrick
Church on the outskirts of Rome at the weekend.
Pope Benedict has told Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas the Vatican hopes the recent de facto recognition of
Palestinian statehood at the United Nations will spur the
international community to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli
Abbas, who is on a tour of Europe to thank countries that
supported the November 29 resolution by the U.N. General
Assembly recognising Palestine, held private talks with the
pope for about 25 minutes in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.
"It is hoped that (the resolution) will encourage the
commitment of the international community to finding a fair
and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between
the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the
rights of both," a Vatican statement said.
The 193-nation General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a
resolution to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer
status at the United Nations from "entity" to "non-member
state," the same status as the Vatican.
The Vatican welcomed the resolution, which amounted to an
implicit recognition of a Palestinian state.
But at the time the Holy See also renewed its call for an
internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem,
something which Israel rejects.
Israel captured East Jerusalem - along with the West Bank and
Gaza Strip - in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it
in a move not recognised internationally. The Jewish state
now regards Jerusalem as its "united and eternal" capital.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state
they seek in the West Bank and Gaza and agree with the
Vatican that the city needs international guarantees.
Israel has always maintained that it already guarantees
Jerusalem's special nature as sacred to the three great
monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but is steadily expanding
settlement in the larger West Bank.
The Vatican said the pope and Abbas also discussed the
"situation in the region, troubled by numerous conflicts,"
which was seen as a clear reference to the civil war in
Abbas later met Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who
expressed the Italian government's support for the
construction of a Palestinian state, his office said in a
Abbas was also due to meet Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of
the Democratic Party, which is widely expected to win
national elections early next year.
Italy's centre-left has traditionally supported Palestinians
while the centre-right has been closer to Israel.