Gallagher recalls 76th anniversary of Israel’s independence

The Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, marks the 76th anniversary of Israel's independence, recalling the history between the Holy See and Israel, and expressing the conviction that dialogue and working together toward peace is possible.

Jun 07, 2024

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher

By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, spoke on Thursday, 6 June, at the Israel Embassy to the Holy See, to commemorate the 76th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

He began by reiterating that the establishment of the State of Israel and its recognition within the framework of international law have always been respected by the Holy See - a respect evidenced by their having established full diplomatic relations.

He recalled that 30 years ago, on 15 June 1994, the two respective diplomatic missions of the Apostolic Nunciature in Israel and the Embassy of the State of Israel to the Holy See, were inaugurated.

"The political choice of the Holy See to establish relations with Israel remains deeply determined," he said, explaining, "This choice is motivated by the conviction that inasmuch as Israel’s existence cannot be questioned, the Holy See’s long-standing position remains for a two-state solution."

October 7 2023
"This," Archbishop Gallagher said, "was made even clearer after the horrific 7 October terrorist attack by Hamas and other militias against the Israeli people, in which hundreds of people, including numerous Jews, were brutally killed, raped, and barbarically taken hostage."

Echoing Pope Francis' words to the Diplomatic Corps last January, in which he renewed his "condemnation" of the act, and of every instance of terrorism and extremism, the Vatican diplomat reaffirmed that "terrorism is not the solution to any conflict" but rather "an act of utter disregard for human life, and no motivation, least of all political or religious, can justify it."

As the Archbishop recalled his time meeting with families of the hostages in Germany on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Archbishop Gallagher said, "I renew my empathy and grief for what has happened."

"Their suffering is great," he lamented, adding, "It is growing with each passing day, especially when there are no quick solutions in sight."

Pope's appeals for the release of hostages
He recalled Pope Francis' constant closeness to the families, not only by the Pope's repeatedly calling for the immediate release of the hostages but also by his meeting their relatives in groups and individually. The Pontiff likewise expressed his closeness in his letter to the Jewish communities in Israel, expressing his sadness and sorrow, and his condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism.

The 7 October attack, Archbishop Gallagher acknowledged, triggered a heavy Israeli military response in Gaza, which was followed, he added, by further military attacks on Israel by many different non-state actors from Lebanon, Yemen, and elsewhere.

"On a number of occasions," he observed, "certain actions have brought the situation to the brink of a very dangerous conflict on a regional scale."

Three Demands: Ceasefire, hostage release, humanitarian aid
"In these difficult and complicated circumstances," he insisted, "the Holy Father Francis has made three clear demands in his appeals: a ceasefire on all fronts; the immediate release of all Israeli hostages; and the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to the affected Palestinian population in Gaza."

He said the "fundamental principle of humanity must never be forsaken or eclipsed by military strategies," because "otherwise the principles of necessity and proportionality are inevitably compromised."

In conflicts, he said, "the Holy See must adhere to the principles of neutrality." This, he clarified, "does not mean being morally indifferent," for "the Holy See does not close its doors to anyone and strives to understand everyone’s motivations and perspectives."

30 years of diplomatic relations
He went on to say that the thirty years of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel have seen progress and challenges, as well as a willingness to cooperate in the best possible way, especially in many areas of cooperation between the Holy See and Israel.

For instance, he cited the Popes’ visits to Israel as "having accelerated the development of a closer and deeper mutual acquaintance," along with Pope Francis' invocation for peace in the Holy Land, which took place in the Vatican Gardens ten years ago with then Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Ecumenical Patriarch Constantinople Bartholomew I, an event Pope Francis will commemorate on Friday.

Great need for peace
This, Archbishop Gallagher noted, "gives us hope and reminds us that dialogue and understanding are possible." There is a great need for peace, which, he said, he wishes can "be achieved in Israel as soon as possible, sooner rather than later!"

The Vatican diplomat concluded by saying his wish and hope for the State of Israel is akin to that which Pope Francis wrote in his Bull on Indiction for the 2025 Jubilee, namely that the need for peace challenges us all to take concrete steps, and that diplomacy "be tireless" in its commitment "to seek every opportunity to undertake negotiations aimed at a lasting peace.” "Peace, Shalom, Salam!" he concluded.--Vatican News

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