In what would constitute a stunning rhetorical volte-face, Pope Francis reportedly walked back earlier statements praising Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and dubbed some of Israel’s detractors “anti-Semitic.”
In comments made to veteran Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman Thursday, Francis was quoted as saying that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.”
Francis was also said to have backtracked on statements he was reportedly heard making earlier this month designating the visiting Abbas “a bit an angel of peace.”
The pope recalled telling Abbas in Italian that he hopes the Palestinian chief might one day become an angel of peace in the future, according to Cymerman — although ostensibly he has not yet reached that level.
The comments were sent by the Pope in writing to Cymerman along with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, one of Francis’s close interfaith colleagues, after the duo approached him following his meeting with Abbas, Channel 2 reported.
Amid a media firestorm following the pontiff’s earlier comments, the Vatican had first clarified — saying he had not called Abbas “an angel of peace” but rather “a bit an angel of peace” — and then apologized, saying the remarks weren’t intended “to offend anyone.”
Read more at Times of Israel.