.- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Dec. 17 with the Pope and expressed his thanks for the Holy See’s support after Palestine was recognized as a state by the United Nations.
Abbas met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Apostolic Palace after the Vatican welcomed the U.N. General Assembly's Nov. 29 vote to recognize Palestine as a "non-member observer state."
According to a Dec. 17 Vatican statement, discussions between the leaders also included the topic of Middle Eastern Christian communities and their “contribution to the common good of society in the region.”
Abbas spoke privately with the Pope for nearly half an hour before meeting with Vatican diplomats, including secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
He gave Pope Benedict a mosaic of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem with an inscription referring to himself as the president of the state of Palestine.
"It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the international community's commitment to a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Vatican said of Palestine’s new status.
“This can only be achieved by resuming negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both,” it added.
The ongoing conflict in Syria was also raised during the meeting.
The Holy See and Palestine now hold the same position in the U.N. as non-member observer states, but the Holy See obtained its position nearly 50 years ago.
Abbas, now on a European tour to thank countries that supported the U.N. initiative, was elected in 2005 as the president for the Palestinian National Authority with a majority of 62 percent of the vote.
Pope Benedict visited Israel and Palestine four years later, appealing for a two-state solution and an end to violence.