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Pope Francis Tells Abbas: Be an 'Angel of Peace'


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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israelis were shocked for the second time in less than a week by a second pro-Palestinian proclamation from the Vatican.

Pope Francis canonized four nuns in Rome. Two of them spoke Arabic and lived in the 1800s when the Ottoman Empire ruled most of the Middle East. It marked the first time nuns from this region have been canonized.

The Vatican is hoping to encourage persecuted Christians in the Middle East by making the Arabic-speaking nuns saints. But local Catholic clergy have politicized the event by calling them Palestinians even though a Palestinian identity, people, or state did not exist at that time.

The pontiff created a media storm when he gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a medal. It was widely reported the Pope called Abbas an "angel of peace."

But according to the Italian daily La Stampa, Francis said, "May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: may you be an angel of peace."

His comment about Abbas followed a treaty signed by the Vatican a few days earlier with the Palestinian Authority that effectively recognized a Palestinian state.

That Palestinian state wants to divide the city of Jerusalem and make it the capital of a future Palestinian state, including the Old City.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that will never happen.

"We will keep Jerusalem united forever under the sovereignty of Israel," the Israeli leader said.

Netanyahu's declaration came as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day on Sunday. It marked the 48th anniversary of uniting the city under Jewish rule after their victory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount were in Jewish hands.

Sovereignty over Jerusalem is the most contested issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many feel the more unilateral support the Palestinians receive from Western players like the Vatican, the more contentious the city will become.

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