Monday 26 February 2024

Relations Become Complicated Between Israel and the Holy See

The recent statements by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin denouncing the “carnage” perpetrated by the Jewish State in the Gaza Strip are “deplorable” according to the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See. 

At the same time, the Vatican justified the words of the cardinal on the grounds that they only seek to prevent a new “spiral of violence.”

“I believe we are all outraged by what is happening, by this carnage. … I request that Israel's right to defense, which has been invoked to justify this operation, be proportional, and certainly with 30,000 deaths, it is not.”

The words spoken on February 13, 2024 by the Vatican secretary caused diplomatic tensions between Israel and the Holy See. 

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the high-ranking diplomat, has the habit of measuring all his words, which is not always the case on the Vatican’s side.

This was all it took to trigger the ire of the Israeli state: “Judging the legitimacy of a war without taking into account all the relevant circumstances and data inevitably leads to erroneous conclusions,” says Ambassador Raphael Schutz, accusing Cardinal Parolin of relying on “Hamas sources.”

Until now, the position of the Holy See in the Holy Land has not changed: the micro-state is pleading – so that peace can finally have a chance of establishing itself in the region – for a solution allowing the coexistence of two states, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, with a special status for the city of Jerusalem under international law. 

This is a solution that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects.

But the Secretary of State of the Holy See is not the first to have condemned the modus operandi of the Israeli army in the enclave of the Gaza Strip. 

At the end of November 2023, the Sovereign Pontiff himself even declared that the Israeli offensive resembled “terrorism” in certain aspects, leading to an outcry on the banks of the Jordan.

400 rabbis had also co-signed an open letter in which they denounced the “diplomatic acrobatics” of the current successor of Peter. 

On February 3, Pope Francis responded to them by reiterating his condemnation of “all forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism.”

It was a response appreciated by the Jewish religious authorities who wrote kind words to the Sovereign Pontiff, which the Holy See published in L'Osservatore Romano two days after the more offensive declaration of Cardinal Parolin.

It is difficult for the Holy See to make its voice heard in the particular context of the Church in the Holy Land. 

The Church is caught between, on one side, an Israeli government which has increased attempts in recent years to rob Christians or religious institutions of their real estate properties in the Old City of Jerusalem, and on the other side, the aggressive attitude of the Hamas Islamists.

The latter consider Arab Christians as second-class citizens, in a way as dhimmis, without daring to say the word out loud.