Did he, or didn't he? That is the question.
Did Pope Francis call Mahmoud Abbas, the Holocaust-denying, terror-supporting leader of the Palestinian Authority, an "angel of peace"? Or did he simply call on him to become an angel of peace?
Let me first apologize for assuming most of the international media — including The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and the BBC — had reported the quotation accurately over the weekend when I wrote a column for WND. The Vatican reporter for the Italian newspaper La Stampa had a different account. That paper reported the pope, in giving Abbas a gift, had told Abbas: "May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: May you be an angel of peace."
Wrong or right, I would strongly urge Pope Francis and the Vatican to clarify the matter because it is important. It's important because of Abbas' lifetime commitment to terrorism and armed struggle against the Jewish state of Israel, including his role in leading and funding the deadly Munich Olympics attack and his doctoral thesis, in which he minimized the toll of the Holocaust and, at the same time, blamed Jews for most of the Nazi carnage.
The reporting of the pope's statement was believable based on his history of flattering statements about Abbas. He previously had referred to him, during his visit to Bethlehem, as a "man of peace."
Abbas is clearly not an angel and never will be one — and neither has he ever been a man of peace.
Yet accuracy is important. That's why the onus is on the pope and the Vatican to set the record straight. Does the pope believe that Abbas, the successor to Yasser Arafat, is truly a "man of peace"? Worse yet, does he believe he is an "angel of peace"?
It's critical to know because much of the world continues to be fooled by Abbas; about that there is no controversy, no wiggle room for error. There should be no confusion about Abbas within the civilized world.
I'm afraid the pope bears some degree of responsibility for the confusion here, given his past embrace of Abbas. In fact, it's not even disputed that the pope celebrated Abbas over the weekend, agreeing to sign a bilateral agreement between the Vatican and the "state of Palestine" to regulate the status of the church in the Palestinian Authority.
By referring to the Palestinian Authority as the "state of Palestine," the pope conferred statehood on Abbas' territory, even though it refuses to unequivocally renounce violence and terrorism against the Jewish state. Secondly, Christians have fled the Sunni-dominated Palestinian Authority since it was given limited autonomy over its territory by Israel. So one must ask why the Vatican would trust Abbas with the fate of the tiny remaining Christian population of his territory.
To review Abbas' diabolical history, as a doctoral candidate at Moscow's Oriental College in 1982, Abbas wrote a thesis suggesting far fewer than 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. But that was just the start. In his treatise, he accused the Jews of conspiring with Adolf Hitler to annihilate European Jewry. He accused the Jews of deliberately inflating the numbers of those killed in concentration camps to pave the way for a Jewish state. He may have been one of the first to equate Zionism with Nazism.
"The Zionist movement's stake in inflating the number of murdered in the war was aimed at (ensuring) great gains," he wrote, adding that this led to confirmation of "the number (6 million) to establish it in world opinion, and by so doing, to arouse more pangs of conscience and sympathy for Zionism in general."
In the version of his doctoral paper later published under the title "The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism," Abbas denied the German use of gas chambers and suggested the total number of Jews killed was fewer than 1 million.
But perhaps the most horrifying and revolting charge by Abbas is that Zionists were complicit with the Nazis in the murder of Jews.
"The Zionist movement led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government's hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination," Abbas wrote.
Abbas has danced around this treatise for many years. He has attempted to put it in perspective. He has tried to explain what he really meant when he denied 6 million Jews were murdered. But he has never publicly retracted his accusation that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews.
Despite this incredible charge, Abbas still enjoys the reputation of a moderate in worldly circles. He still enjoys the reputation of a pragmatist. He still enjoys the reputation of a statesman — perhaps even an indispensable statesman. Pope Francis took this madness to a new height of absurdity — calling him a man of peace.
The pope may have gone even further, characterizing him as an angel of peace. Neither description is accurate or helpful in achieving peace between Arabs and Israelis.
Abbas was one of the principal planners of the Munich Olympics terrorist attack. He was the guy who wrote the checks and embraced the operatives as they headed off to one of the most sensational terrorist attacks of its time in 1972.
If I assumed the worst about the pope because of inaccurate reporting by most of the international press, I apologize.
But is clarification by the pope now in order? You bet.
To find out more about Joseph Farah and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.