The Vatican, interestingly, managed to wrangle an invitiation to participate in the just-concluded Annapolis Conference convened by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and U.S. President George Bush.
The Vatican — the government of the Roman Catholic Church — which has its seat in the territorially and administratively independent Holy See based in the Vatican City in Italy, has long been asserting its interests in participating in the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the 1980 Venice Declaration issued by European states, the Vatican had responsibility for drafting the section concerning Jerusalem — and backed an international status for the city. The Vatican persistently asserts the Roman Catholic interests in the holy sites of the region. (The late and very lamented Naim Khader, the PLO representative to te European Community seat in Brussels, and who worked tirelessly to shape this Venice Declaration, was murdered outside his home by professional assassins for his trouble — the killers fired straight into Naim’s head, and his heart.)
The Vatican also has an on-going dispute with the Israeli Government on the issue of Israeli taxation of religious institutions in the region.
The day after the Annapolis conference, the Associated Press reported that “A Vatican official said Wednesday that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland, and said he hoped Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would address the issue. Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican’s office for migrants, said an agreement to restart peace talks, reached Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland, was encouraging and that he hoped by this time next year concrete measures would be under way. ‘It is my hope that all the parts of the problem are taken into consideration such as that of the Palestinian refugees, who like all other refugees, have the right to return to their homeland’, Martino said … Martino spoke at a news conference to launch Pope Benedict XVI’s annual message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which the Catholic Church marks on January 13″… The Cardinal’s remarks were published by The Jerusalem Post here.