Israeli Arab Lawmaker Ayman Odeh Meets With Pope Francis

Head of Israel's sole Arab party Ayman Odeh discussed situation of Israel's Arab citizens with Pope and other Vatican officials

Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury

MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint Arab List party, met with top Vatican officials and Pope Francis on Wednesday.

MK Odeh gave the pope a missive dealing with the history and status of Arab citizens of Israel and the Arab minority's struggle for equality, democracy and peace. The missive deals with, among other subjects the situation of church school, which have been under financial strife due to low government funding.

In his meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Odeh raised the plight of the residents of two Arab Christian villages of Iqrit and Bir'im, in the Upper Galilee village, who were uprooted in 1948 and have tried to return to their village, and have even lobbied the pope on the issue in the past. The two also discussed Israel's policy of not allowing Palestinians from the West Bank to live with their close relatives in Israel proper.

Pope Francis has called for Israelis and Palestinians to make peace both from the pulpit and during meetings with leaders from both sides, and he even visited the region in 2014.

In May 2016, he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican after canonizing two Palestinian nuns as saints. During his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Francis called both Abbas and then-Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.

During his Christmas Eve mass, the pope called for peace, saying "Where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built," he said.