ROME (Jan. 7)
The Vatican is taking pains to allay any notion that the visit to Israel by John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, indicates a modification of the “prerequisites” it has set for establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish State.
O’Connor, who arrived here Tuesday from Israel, said he encountered not the “slightest evidence of displeasure” by the Holy See over his trip and the fact that he met with two Israeli leaders, President Chaim Herzog and Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, at their homes in Jerusalem.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls issued a statement to the press Wednesday noting that Pope Paul VI met with Golda Meir in 1964 and Pope John Paul II met with Peres in 1985.
“The State of Israel or its sovereignty is not at issue,” he added.
“As is known, the issue regards the status of the city of Jerusalem, the problem of the occupied territories and the Palestinian issue. I think the acts of courtesy of Cardinal O’Connor do not involve these problems which must be solved in appropriate circumstances.”
1984 APOSTOLIC LETTER RECALLED
Journalists were reminded that the contents of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on Jerusalem of April 20, 1984, are still valid.
The letter stated: “I am convinced the failure to find an adequate solution to the question of Jerusalem and the…postponement of the problem, only compromise the longed-for peaceful and just settlement of the crisis of the whole Middle East.”
The letter called for the application of “special status” to “not only the monuments of the sacred places, but the whole historical Jerusalem and the existence of religious communities, their situation and future” which “cannot but affect everyone and interest everyone.”
A month before that letter was issued, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was given a background briefing by a ranking official of the Roman Curia. The official said that one of the primary concerns of the Holy See was that each religious community receive guarantees for complete freedom to develop and grow physically and economically, including rights of ownership, investments and the possibility of urban expansion.
The official said the Vatican sought a “three-fold agreement between Jewish, Christian and Islamic authorities” in Jerusalem because Israel’s guarantees alone were not sufficient. They had to be of an international character, he said.
The Vatican’s second demand, creation of “a homeland for the Palestinian people,” is contained in all of its documents relating to the Middle East. The Vatican perceives this to be inextricably tied to “the necessity of simultaneously guaranteeing the security of all peoples in the region.”
The Pope told the international diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican on January 14, 1984 that these principles imply a comprehensive peace treaty for the area. They are the only conditions under which the Vatican would establish diplomatic relations with Israel, formalizing what already exists on an “unofficial” level.
The Vatican maintains an Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem to represent its interests and there is an almost daily flow of contacts on the cultural, religious and even political levels which the Vatican authorities freely admit and encourage.