A treaty facilitating the relationship between the Holy See and Palestine has come into effect, making the Holy See’s recognition of the ‘state’ de facto.
The Vatican announced on January 2 that its ‘comprehensive agreement’ with the ‘State of Palestine’, has now come into force. The treaty was signed in June 2015.
The agreement called for moves to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and backed a two-state solution, referring to Palestine as a “state” meaning the Vatican recognises it as an equal partner.
The Holy See said in a statement, released on Saturday: “The Holy See and the State of Palestine have notified each other that the procedural requirements for its [the agreement’s] entry into force have been fulfilled, under the terms of Article 30 of the same Agreement.”
The move seals support for the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution granting Palestine a non-member observer status. This was welcomed at the time by the Vatican, which has the same status.
In October 2014, Sweden acknowledged Palestine, drawing condemnation from Israel.
Israel has previously called the Vatican involvement a hasty move that could be damaging to attempts to reach a peace agreement and impact the country’s diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
But Pope Francis has already played a diplomatic role, having previously called for the Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume.
In May 2014, Pope Francis also visited Bethlehem where he gave a speech stating both Israel and Palestine had a right to exist, laying the groundwork for the treaty.
“The Agreement … regards essential aspects of the life and activity of the Church in Palestine, while at the same time reaffirming the support for a negotiated and peaceful solution to the conflict in the region,” the Vatican said.
The treaty aims to secure the rights of the Catholic Church on Palestinian territories in exchange for backing the two-state solution, and gives more weight to Palestine politically.
It’s also been said it could safeguard the holy sites in Palestine – in April 2014 a Catholic monastery was vandalised by Israelis.