Daily Israel Report

Lebanese Christian Leader to Ask Pope to Recognize 'Palestine'

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church leader will ask the pope to recognize the Palestinian state when he visits Lebanon.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/7/2012, 5:14 AM

Patriarch Gregory III Laham, pictured in February 2012
Patriarch Gregory III Laham, pictured in February 2012
AFP/File

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church leader will ask the pope to recognize the Palestinian state when he arrives next week for his first visit to Lebanon, a Catholic website said Thursday, according to AFP.

Patriarch Gregory III Laham, the spiritual head of Lebanon's second largest Catholic community, will be the first to address the pope during a welcome ceremony near the Lebanese capital.

The website has already published the speech Gregory III is to make, in which he will thank the Holy See and its leaders for their “firm and unwavering position on the (Palestinian) cause.”

He will also ask the Holy See to "recognize the Palestinian state in compliance with the resolutions and decisions of the international community and international law.”

The recognition, which the patriarch called a "courageous step of fairness, justice and truth", would allow the Holy See to remain a "pioneer of world justice" and prompt European and other countries to follow, AFP reported.

It would also "be a guarantee for the solution of most of the very complex problems of the Arab and Muslim world" and stop the emigration of Christians from the region, the report continued. Christian Arab emigration is, however, due to persecution by Muslims in the PA.

The Melkites are an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Vatican.

During a meeting in the Vatican last year, Pope Benedict XVI and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said there was an "urgent need" for a lasting solution to the conflict between Israel and the PA.

Any resolution to the conflict would have to respect the rights of all parties including through "the attainment of the Palestinian people's legitimate aspirations for an independent state", a statement said at the time.

They also reiterated "that soon the State of Israel and the Palestinian State must live in security, at peace with their neighbors and within internationally recognized borders".

The PA recently announced its intention to turn to the UN General Assembly for recognition as a state.

In September 2011, Abbas applied for full UN membership at the UN Security Council. Israel and the U.S. staunchly opposed the bid, which failed due to a lack of support in the 15-member council.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki recently said that Arab countries support a unilateral PA bid for statehood recognition in the UN General Assembly.

Earlier this week, the PLO reiterated its determination to approach the United Nations and ask for recognition of ‘Palestine’ as a non-member state.