Pope Francis will grant Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas an audience at the Vatican on Saturday, the Holy See confirmed on Tuesday, according to AFP.
It will be the third time that the Pope has met Abbas following an encounter during the pontiff's 2014 trip to the Holy Land and the Abba’s 2015 visit to the Vatican to attend a canonization ceremony for two Palestinian nuns, noted AFP.
In 2013, the Vatican recognized “Palestine” as a state. Last year, an accord between the Holy See and the PA, which is expected to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian embassy in the Vatican at some point this year, took effect.
During his 2015 meeting with Abbas, the Pope referred to Abbas as "an angel of peace", causing outrage on social media.
The Vatican later explained that the reference was mistranslated, and in fact was meant as encouragement for Abbas to pursue peace with Israel.
Saturday's meeting between Pope Francis and Abbas will come against a background of deep concern among Palestinian Arabs over U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's declared intention of moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Just this past Friday, Abbas warned Trump against moving the American embassy, saying that such a move would be crossing a "red line" and could jeopardize peace prospects.
Earlier in the week the PA chairman warned of “serious implications” if the embassy is moved, saying, “Moving the embassy will have serious consequences not only for the Palestinian people, but also for the legitimacy of the entire international struggle against the occupation.”
On Tuesday it was reported that PA leaders had called for prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest Trump’s plans to move the embassy.