Lebanon, Israel, and the Holy See

Among the representatives of 15 powerful nations gathered in Rome on July 26 to discuss the crisis between Lebanon and Israel were clergymen sent from that tiniest of states ruled by the world’s last absolute monarch, the Pope.  Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and two monsignors from his staff had been asked to be observers at the talks, which were initiated by the U.S. State Department and the Italian government.  Though the clerics were not invited to address the community of politicians, their very presence reminded those gathered of the position of the Holy See on the conflict, one often repeated by Pope Benedict XVI: Besides calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the Pope made it clear that

The Lebanese people have a right to the integrity and sovereignty of their country; the Israeli people have a right to live in peace in their own state, and the Palestinian people have a right to have a free and sovereign homeland.

The Pope’s position echoed that of the pontiffs of the last century, who, following the establishment of Israel in 1948, argued that the only solution to protecting the Holy Land from interminable war is to grant Jerusalem special international status and to establish a contiguous Palestinian state.  In effect, the Vatican endorsed the U.N. partition plan of 1947, which was never fully implemented because...

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