A deal between the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority which makes reference to the "Palestinian state" has raised the ire of Republican members of Congress, who slammed Pope Francis for his foray into Mideast politics against a U.S. ally, Israel.
“The Pope is legitimizing a Palestinian state without requiring those who get recognition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who said he is "disappointed" with the Vatican's move, Politico reported.
“It’s interesting how the Vatican has gotten so political when ultimately the Vatican ought to be working to lead people to Jesus Christ and salvation, and that’s what the Church is supposed to do,” he said, according to Politico.
The meaning of Vatican's use of the term "state of Palestine" is not entirely clear. In the early stages of formulating the agreement, part of a new treaty with the Palestinian Authority centering on the Catholic Church's activities in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, several drafts stated that the agreement is between the Vatican and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Now, the final draft says the treaty is between the Vatican and the state of Palestine.
Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry said that at this point, Israel does not view the treaty as recognition of Palestine by the Vatican, and is waiting for further clarifications from the Vatican's Foreign Ministry. On the other hand, Vatican Spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters on Wednesday that "it's a recognition that the state [Palestine] exists."
Despite the treaty's blurred significance, congressmen insisted that the pope is in fact recognizing Palestine.
"I’m surprised that the pope would recognize Palestine when they’re still haters who want to eliminate Israel off the map and don’t recognize Israel," said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Politico reported.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz), who co-chairs the Israel Allies Caucus, criticized the pope for making a political decision without biblical grounds.
"He’s a religious figure and he has every right to have his political viewpoint, but someone of that profile should have strong scriptural foundation for whatever positions he takes that are extensively representing the head of the Catholic Church,” Franks said, according to Politico. “I think this is probably one he should not have expressed.”