PARIS (Feb. 10)
The Vatican newspaper, “Osservatore Romano,” said today that the Vatican’s position on the Middle East and the Palestinian problem “has not changed in any way.” The statement, in effect, disavowed Vatican endorsement of a communique released after the recent Moslem-Christian conference in Tripoli, Libya, attended by a Vatican delegation, which affirmed the rights of the Palestinian people to return to their “homeland,” meaning the territory now Israel.
Vatican sources in Rome, contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, said the “Osservatore Romano” report fully and completely represents the position of the Vatican. The sources appeared highly embarrassed by the communique which totally supported the Arab side in the Middle East conflict with the implication of Vatican endorsement of that position. They told the JTA that the Vatican delegation “was not empowered to reach political decisions” and should not have done so.
Don Vigilio Levi, deputy director of “Osservatore Romano” explained the background of the Tripoli communique in a front page commentary today. He said that Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli, who headed the Vatican delegation to the Tripoli conference, was shown the communique “at the very last minute,” implying that he had no chance to change it.
Pignedoli explained the circumstances himself last week. He said that the document was prepared in Arabic and that he did not know, until it was presented to him, that it contained an unqualified endorsement of the Arab position. He said he repudiated any alleged support of it on the Vatican’s part.