The War of Words Between Israel and the Vatican

Source: FSSPX News

Relations between the Holy See and Israel are like the weather in May: alternating between storms and sun. The latest thunderclap to date: on May 11, 2024, during the closing ceremony for the latest edition of the World Meeting on Human Fraternity, organized by the Vatican’s Fratelli Tutti Foundation.

On this occasion, the participants who were gathered in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica applauded a speech given by Tawakkol Karman: the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner took advantage of the platform offered her to claim that “The world is silent in front of the genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” as Reuters reports.

That was enough to trigger the ire of the Jewish State: the Israeli ambassy to the Holy See immediately reacted with an open letter published on X, according to Reuters, calling Karman’s remarks “lies,” lamenting that the Vatican Basilica was “contaminated by a flagrantly anti-Semitic speech.”

Il Messaggero reported the story on May 13, including the embassy’s added remarks: “Talking about ethnic cleansing in Gaza while Israel allows large quantities of humanitarian aid to enter Gaza daily is Orwellian.

“It is also regrettable that such a speech was made without anyone feeling the moral duty to intervene to stop this disgrace.”

But Raphael Schutz, Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, wants to calm the situation: ”I think this episode should not have any influence on bilateral relations because the shameful statement [Editor’s note: of Tawakkol Karmon] was not made by the Vatican or on behalf of the Vatican.”

But the ambassador wants to see a special effort from the Holy See to make sure that in the future, “its good intentions and hospitality” are not “abused by others” for political ends and expects “the Vatican to distance itself strongly and clearly” from the remarks that were made by the Yemeni Nobel Prize winner.

For several months now, relations between Israel and the smallest State in the world have been somewhat turbulent: in addition to the little appreciated remarks of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, regularly denouncing the humanitarian disaster lived by the Gazans, the Secretary of State for the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, set fire to gunpowder with his February condemnation of the Israel intervention.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting between the Holy See and Italy, Cardinal Parolin had affirmed that those who demand an end to the fighting are part of “a general voice, that it can’t go on like this,” as Crux reports. He added that “Israel’s right of self-defense, which has been invoked to justify this operation, must be proportional, and with 30,000 dead it certainly isn’t.”

The high prelate had been sharply criticized by Israel, Reuters recalls, which had called his statement “deplorable,” before softening and clarifying in a supplementary note that in English, Israel’s statement’s original term was “regrettable,” which is less strong than the Italian translation “deplorevole” which had been erroneously used.

But on one side or the other, there is no question of crossing the line, and the Jewish State knows that it will surely have to count on the stabilizing power of the Holy See in the Middle East, when the time comes to find a political solution in the Gaza Strip.