An agreement signed by the Vatican last summer recognizing Palestine as a state has gone into effect. The move has drawn staunch criticism from Israel.
The Vatican's accord, which was signed in June an effectively recognized the existence of a Palestinian state, came into effect, the Holy See announced this weekend.
The agreement came two years after the Roman Catholic Church recognized the Palestinian territories as a sovereign state, following its vocal approval of Palestine being granted observer status by the UN General Assembly.
While the accord only explicitly covers Church operations in the Holy Land under Palestinian control, many see it as another significant step toward international recognition of a Palestinian state.
Criticism from Israel
Israel called the Vatican's decision counterproductive to the Middle East peace process, saying it was premature and could slow talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The Vatican seeks to have a greater diplomatic role in the region, where Christians have faced heavy persecution.
The Church has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel since 1993, but has not yet signed an agreement on Christian rights there.
blc/ (AFP, Reuters, dpa)