Pope Francis calls Palestinians' Abbas 'angel of peace'

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Pope Francis with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 16 May 2015Image source, AFP
Image caption,
President Abbas is in Rome for the canonisation of two Palestinian nuns

Pope Francis has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican, calling him "an angel of peace".

The Pope made the remark as he presented the Palestinian leader with a medallion.

President Abbas is visiting the Vatican for the canonisation of two 19th-Century Palestinian nuns on Sunday.

His visit came days after the Vatican said it would formally recognise Palestinian statehood in a treaty.

The treaty states that the Holy See favours a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and allows the Vatican to oversee aspects of Roman Catholic life in the areas President Abbas controls.

Israel expressed disappointment with the treaty, which uses the term "Palestinian state".

Civil rights

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says that after 20 minutes of private talks, Pope Francis gave Mr Abbas the medallion depicting an angel of peace adding: "It is appropriate because you are an angel of peace."

Correspondents say the Vatican is keen to protect the property and civil rights of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories.

The Vatican's move also comes amid growing momentum to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Over the past year the European Parliament as well as the UK, Republic of Ireland, Spain and France have all passed non-binding motions in favour.

Sweden has gone further, officially recognising Palestine as a state.

The moves have been criticised by Israel, which says recognition of statehood in this way discourages Palestinians from resuming talks on a final status agreement.