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Vatican Says It Recognizes Israel, but is Not Ready to Establish Ties

The Vatican, expressing “profound respect” for Israel, has issued a lengthy statement on its relations with the Jewish state, in which it says that the absence of diplomatic ties does not mean the Holy See refuses to recognize Israel’s existence.

But Israel must address the problems of the Palestinians and the “occupied territories,” including Jerusalem, as well as the situation of the Catholic minority in Israel, before full diplomatic ties can be established, according to the statement, which was released Friday.

The statement was clearly issued in response to numerous recent appeals for the Vatican to recognize the Jewish state, many of which have been made since the outbreak of war in the Middle East and the onset of Iraqi missile attacks on Israel.

More than 1,000 Jews and non-Jews demonstrated for Vatican relations with Israel on Sunday, during the pope’s weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square.

The group included nuns and other Catholic supporters of Israel, who waved Israeli flags, held aloft posters saying “Israel Will Not Die,” and chanted “Shalom.”

The pontiff, clearly recognizing the import of the demonstration, addressed the issue, saying, “There is one banner which signifies peace. Shalom means peace. I wish this peace on your people and on the State of Israel.”

But establishing diplomatic ties with Israel depends on clearing up the “difficulties” between the two states, the four-page statement says, problems which are “juridical, not theological.”

‘PROFOUND RESPECT’ FOR ISRAEL

“It must be clear that the Holy See has never put into discussion the existence of the State of Israel,” wrote Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls.

“On the part of the Holy See, there is an attitude of profound respect for the State of Israel,” and the conviction that “its existence and security must be protected, particularly through the search for points of agreement with other states in the region,” the statement says.

The spokesman enumerated a list of reciprocal visits between Vatican and Israeli delegations, including regular contacts made though Israel’s Embassy in Rome and the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem.

He referred to a list of public references the pope had made to Israel and “to its need for security.”

Diplomatic relations between the two states depend on “circumstances and evaluations,” the statement reads.

Noting that under international law “no state is obliged to establish diplomatic or consular relations with another state,” the statement says the Vatican has waited or is still waiting to establish formal relations with a number of countries, for various reasons.

The difficulties between the Vatican and Israel, according to the statement, are “the Israeli presence in the occupied territories and relations with the Palestinians”; “the annexation of the holy city of Jerusalem”; and “the situation of the Catholic Church in Israel and the territories it administrates.”

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