Ramallah: The Vatican has officially recognized the state of Palestine in a new treaty.
The treaty, which was finalized Wednesday but still has to be signed, makes clear that the Vatican has switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.
“Yes, it’s a recognition that the state exists,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday, the day before two Palestinian nuns are canonized, his office said.
Marie Alphonsine Ghattas of Jerusalem and Mariam Bawardy of Galilee, both of whom lived in Ottoman Palestine during the 19th century, will be made saints in a ceremony at the Vatican on Sunday.
The Vatican has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.
The Vatican’s foreign minister, Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, acknowledged the change in status, given that the treaty was initially inked with the PLO and is now being finalized with the “state of Palestine.” But he said the shift was simply in line with the Holy See’s position.
Ghattas was born in Jerusalem in 1847, and died there in 1927. She was beatified — the final step before canonization — in 2009.
Bawardy was born in Galilee, now in northern Israel, in 1843. She became a nun in France and died in Bethlehem in 1878.
She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1983.
Although there are several saints who lived in the region during Christianity’s early days, Bawardy and Ghattas are the first to be canonized from Ottoman-era Palestine.
The canonization of a third Palestinian — a Salesian monk — is still under review by the Church.