Pope Francis touches the apartheid wall on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, 2014. REUTERS/Mheisen

Palestine warmly welcomes comprehensive agreement with the Holy See

PNN/ Bethlehem/

PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Saeb Erekat on Sunday has welcomed the historic agreement signed between the Holy See and the State of Palestine last Friday in the Vatican.

In an official statement on behalf of the PLO, Erekat said that this agreement stresses the Church’s integral role in Palestine and reaffirms the Vatican’s historic position of support towards the fulfillment of the national rights of the Palestinian people by recognizing the State of Palestine on the 1967 border.

“We hope that this agreement serves as an example for the rest of the region. In Palestine, Christians are not perceived as a minority but as an important and integral part of the Palestinian people. With this agreement, Palestine reflects once again its full commitment towards the protection of fundamental freedoms and its respect for the status quo of Holy Sites,” Erekat said.

Erekat confirmed that “while Churches are attacked by terrorists in other parts of the region, including by Israelis, Palestine is proud to have the oldest Christian community in the world and to protect and enhance the role of the various churches in our country.”

To his part, Palestine’s Foreign Minister, Riad Malki in a letter to Archbishop Gallagher and members of the delegations of the Holy See has expressed the honor to have officially signed the agreement following a number of years of intensive negotiations in a spirit of partnership.

“This is a historic agreement. It would have not been possible without the support and personal dedication of President Abbas, and the blessing of His Holiness, Pope Francis, to our efforts in this regard,” Malki said.

For the first time, the Agreement includes an official recognition by the Holy See of Palestine as a State, in recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and dignity in an independent state of their own, free from the shackles of occupation. It also supports the vision for peace and justice in the region in accordance with international law and based on two states, living side by side in peace and security, on the basis of the 1967 borders.

“The agreement reinforces our bond with new and unprecedented provisions related to the special status of Palestine as the birthplace of Christianity and as the cradle of monolithic religions,” the letter continued. “It embodies our shared values of freedom, dignity, tolerance, co-existence, and equality of all.”