New doubts are being raised over media reports that Pope Francis called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” — now from the Vatican's top spokesman.
Bloggers initially raised questions over the media translation of the pope's quote. On Monday, the Vatican’s chief spokesman said he didn’t hear Francis say those exact words on Saturday.
Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who was at the Abbas meeting, told the Times of Israel Monday that he “did not hear the exact words spoken”:
This, Lombardi elaborated, was “because they were said in a very colloquial manner between the pope and the Palestinian president, who were in close proximity to one another.”
Still, Lombardi’s description of papal intent seemed to point away from the “Abbas is an angel,” and more toward the “hopefully Abbas will be an angel” explanation.
The Times of Israel was referring to an account of the meeting in the Italian press that conflicted with quotes the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters had attributed to Francis.
As TheBlaze noted Saturday, Vatican Insider, an English-language publication of the Italian newspaper La Stampa, translated Francis’ words as a wish that Abbas become an angel, rather than praising him for already being one.
“May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: may you be an angel of peace,” said Pope Francis, according to La Stampa.
By contrast, the Associated Press reported of the Francis-Abbas exchange:
Francis made the compliment during the traditional exchange of gifts at the end of an official audience in the Apostolic Palace. He presented Abbas with a medallion and explained that it represented the “angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war.”
Francis said he thought the gift was appropriate since “you are an angel of peace.” During his 2014 visit to Israel and the West Bank, Francis called both Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.
Vatican spokesman Lombardi told the Times of Israel that Francis often gives visiting leaders the bronze medallion signifying an angel of peace to encourage them to work toward peace.
“When the pope presents the medal to the president or head of state, he offers a few words of explanation of the gift as well as an invitation to a commitment to peace on the part of the recipient,” Lombardi said. “Each one of us must be for others and for the world an ‘angel of peace.’”
Lombardi noted that the word "angel" is meant in the context of the gift as messenger for peace.
“In any case, the sense of encouraging a commitment to peace was very clear, and I believe that the very gift of the symbol of an angel of peace was made by the pope with this intention, as well as previous presentations of the same gift to presidents, not only to Abbas,” Lombardi said.