Vatican Recognition of Israel Not Imminent. New Bishop Indicates

Msgr. Pierre Giorgio Chiappero, the Vatican’s newly appointed Latin Bishop in Israel, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that his duties would be entirely pastoral and not political. He denied that his appointment might be a first step toward Vatican recognition of Israel and called totally unjustified rumors of Arab fears that his nomination might mean an initial step toward Israel-Vatican diplomatic relations.

The new Bishop, who said he expected to arrive in Israel within the next two months take up his duties, said he would probably reside in Haifa because a majority of Israeli Christians live in that area and because other Israel localities were easier to reach from Haifa than from Jerusalem.

He said his jurisdiction would be limited to Israel, excluding the Gaza Strip, and that his jurisdiction was delegated to him by the Patriarch of Jerusalem who presides over Israel, Jordan and Cyprus.

Msgr. Chiappero explained that the Vatican had named him because the aging Patriarch often could not attend state functions as requested by the Government of Israel. He said another problem was the need for more spiritual assistance and supervision of the large Catholic communities in Israel.

The new Bishop expressed the opinion that all pending issues, such as the Arab refugee problem and the status of the Holy Places in Israel and Jerusalem, should be “faced realistically taking existing realities into consideration.”

He hinted that the increasing importance of the Jordan-held Old City of Jerusalem stressed by King Hussein rendered the chances of internationalizing the entire city “more improbable.” He said he considered the condition of the Arabs in Israel as satisfactory.

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