Vatican Officially Recognizes State Of Palestine In New Treaty

The Vatican announced Wednesday that it is set to sign its first accord with Palestine, sparking the ire of Israeli authorities and prompting allegations that such a move will be damaging to the fragile Middle East peace process.

According to NPR, the new treaty will switch the Vatican's diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine. While the document has yet to be signed, the Vatican noted that it has been concluded, and will be submitted to authorities in both states "ahead of setting a date in the near future for the signing."

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the treaty represents an acknowledgement on the part of the Holy See that the state of Palestine exists. The Vatican has referred to a Palestinian state since February 2013, following a November 2012 recognition vote by the U.N. general assembly.

"In its annual directory the Palestinian representative is referred to as the representative of the State of Palestine," Lombardi said.

The treaty is the product of a "bilateral commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine," according to the Vatican, and will represent a "comprehensive agreement" on the state of the Catholic Church in Palestine. According to Antoine Camilleri, the Holy See's deputy foreign minister, the document reiterates the Vatican's support for a Two-State Solution.Israeli authorities reacted to the news with displeasure, issuing an unsigned statement regarding the matter, as Yahoo News reports.

"Israel heard with disappointment the decision of the Holy See to agree a final formulation of an agreement with the Palestinians including the use of the term 'Palestinian State'. Such a development does not further the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct bilateral negotiations. Israel will study the agreement and consider its next step."

Though the agreement between the Vatican and Palestine has been nearly 15 years in the making, it may be signed as early as this weekend, during a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His trip is set to center around the canonization of two new Palestinian saints by the Holy See. Recently, the Vatican sparked criticism when it announced that it would also be canonizing controversial Friar Junipero Serra, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

During the Pope's visit to the Holy Land last year, the official program produced by the Vatican referred to Abbas as president of the State of Palestine.

[Photo by PPO/ Getty Images]