Pope Francis received the President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican on Saturday. President Abbas was in Rome for today’s canonization of two saints from Palestine: Sister Mariam Baouardy and Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas.
Upon being welcomed by the Holy Father, Abbas said: “You look much younger…” The two held a private conversation for 20 minutes with the help of an interpreter.
Following the private audience, President Abbas presented the delegation accompanying him, which included Palestine’s Foreign Minister, the mayor of Bethlehem, the diplomatic representative of the PNA to the Holy See, and the Minister of Christian Affairs.
The presentation was followed by an exchange of gifts. The Pope presented Abbas with a medallion of the Angel of Peace, saying: “The angely of peace destroys the evil spirit of war.” He added: “I was thinking of you so that you may be an angel of peace.” The Holy Father also gave him an English copy of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
For his part, the Palestinian head of state gave him a reliquary adorned with pearls, that contained relics of the two nuns who will were canonized this morning. Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun, who is also Catholic, showed the relics to the Holy Father and also gave him a rosary made from Olive tree wood.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Pope said to Abbas: “We’ll see you tomorrow”, referring to the canonization ceremony and Mass. President Abbas was then received privately by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary for Relations with States.
In a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican described the conversations between the Holy Father and President Abbas as “cordial”, adding that “great satisfaction was expressed for the accord reached on the text of a comprehensive Agreement between the Parties on various essential aspects of the life and the activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine, to be signed in the near future.”
“Attention then turned to the peace process with Israel, — the communique continued – “and the hope was expressed that direct negotiations between the Parties be resumed in order to find a just and lasting solution to the conflict. To this end the wish was reiterated that, with the support of the international Community, Israelis and Palestinians may take with determination courageous decisions to promote peace. Finally, with reference to the conflicts that afflict the Middle East, and in reaffirming the importance of combating terrorism, the need for interreligious dialogue was underlined.”