Key Dates in Vatican-Israel Relations

  • May 23, 2014

1947  The Vatican supports the proposal to internationalize Jerusalem because of its desire to reestablish its influence in the Holy Land and over the Holy Places.

1964  Pope Paul VI becomes the first pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to set foot in Jerusalem. However the Vatican does not recognize the Jewish State, and the pope never mentions the word Israel during the trip.

1980 – Pope John Paul II states that "the Jewish people, after the tragic experiences linked to the slaughter of many of its sons and daughters, motivated by a desire for security, established the State of Israel."

1984 – Pope John Paul II states for the Jewish people in Israel: "the desired security and tranquility that are the prerogative of every nation, as well as required conditions for the life and progress of every society."

1987 – Pope John Paul II declares that "the Jews have a right to nationhood, as do all other peoples, according to international law."

Dec. 30, 1993  The Holy See establishes diplomatic relations with Israel in ceremonies held in Rome and Jerusalem. The Accord states in part, "The Holy See and the State of Israel are committed to appropriate cooperation in combating all forms of anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance, and in promoting mutual understanding among nations, tolerance among communities, and respect for human life and dignity. The Holy See takes this occasion to reiterate its condemnation of hatred, persecution, and all other manifestations of anti-Semitism directed against the Jewish people and individual Jews anywhere, at any time and by anyone."

March 21, 2000  Pope John Paul II visits Israel for 5 days, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and Christian holy sites. He meets with the Israeli Prime Minister and Chief Rabbis. The visual highlight came when the pope inserted a note with a prayer into the Western Wall asking forgiveness of G-d on behalf of those who have caused Jews to suffer throughout the course of history. “We wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant”, the note concludes. It marks the culmination of John Paul’s two decades of effort to reconcile Catholics and Jews.

May 2009 – Pope Benedict visits the State of Israel. Visits Yad Vashem, and gives prayer at the Western Wall, reaffirming the actions of Pope John Paul II nine years earlier.

April 2013 – Israeli President Shimon Peres invites Pope Francis to visit Israel during a meeting at the Vatican. The Pope raised the issue of anti-Semitism around the world, and made clear that anti-Semitism contravenes the beliefs of Christianity, and that it must be opposed in every country in the world.

December 2013 – Pope Francis meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Vatican. The two discussed a number of regional issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran’s nuclear program.