Jerusalem in the Vatican documents

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Jerusalem in the Vatican documents

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

The Vatican diplomat, of Lebanese origin, Archbishop Edmond Farhat, has left behind invaluable books before his death in 2016 which deal with the Arab-Vatican relations. The most important one is a book titled, “Jerusalem in the Vatican Documents” which covers the period from 1887, during the era of Pope Leo XIII, to 1991, to the era of Pope John Paul II. Former Lebanese President Charles Helou said: "The book of the nuncio, Archbishop Farhat, is not a record for a certain era of time. It is a record of values and principles, which everyone has to refer to in order to get enlightened with it."

The author of the book says: "Jerusalem, the partitioned and disputed city nowadays, is a source of doubt and a stumbling block. Yet, it will restore in the future its originality and mission as a cradle of peace and a city for all or rather a sacred fulcrum for history and life." When Archbishop Farhat, may his soul rest in peace, decided to collect papal documents related to Jerusalem in this useful and invaluable book, he sought in the first place to show the Vatican's stand towards the holy city during the period 1887 until the date of authorship. It is known that when Archbishop Farhat decided to collect all the papal documents over this long period, Jerusalem underwent drastic changes effective the Ottoman Empire era until the British mandate of Palestine. This includes the demands of the Zionist movement and the Balfour Declaration in 1917, as well as the various regional and international events that led to the partitioning of Palestine, the establishment of Israel, and the emergence of the Jerusalem issue. We are also familiar with the events that took place after the issuance of the book in 1991 which will reviewed in other articles, foremost of which is the denial of admission of Palestinians to Jerusalem at a later time and the Gulf War.

I checked the book--placed in my study room, which was a basic reference in my doctorate thesis on the common values between Jordan and the Vatican (Holy See)--after having read on the Vatican News website a news item stating that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin summoned the ambassadors of Israel and the United States for meetings to express the Holy See's concern about Israeli moves to annex and maintain sovereignty over parts of the occupied West Bank because they are unilateral decisions that might undermine the quest for peace and the current Middle East status. The Holy See also reiterated the position that supports the two-state solution saying that, "the State of Israel and the State of Palestine have the right to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders." The Vatican also appealed to the Israelis and the Palestinians to exert utmost effort to reopen the process of direct negotiation on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
The Vatican position is not new as it has all the time been supportive of the historical right of the Palestinians to an independent state on their national soil.

As for the issue of Jerusalem, during the visit of His Majesty King Abdullah II to the Vatican on December 19, 2017, and during an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis on the issue of Jerusalem, His Holiness stressed that Jerusalem is a unique and a holy city for the followers of the three religions.

During this meeting, His Holiness the Pope called for respecting Jerusalem’s status quo in line with the relevant United Nations resolutions in such a way that contributes to averting further violence and tensions. His Holiness Pope Francis also referred to the pivotal role of His Majesty King Abdullah II in protecting the sanctities in Jerusalem. He also praised Jordan's commitment to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world.

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