Did the British media get it wrong on Pope “angel of peace” comments? (Update)

(See important updates below.  Also, some wording in this post, including the headline, was slightly revised to more accurately reflect the continuing ambiguity regarding the pope’s exact words to Abbas.)

Pope Francis calls the Palestinian presidentan angel of peaceduring Vatican visit” claimed the Guardian/AFP in a May 16th report on Mahmoud Abbas’s visit with the pope at the Apostolic Palace days after the Vatican said it was preparing to sign its first accord with “Palestine”.

Another Guardian article on May 17th reported that, during their meeting, the Pope gave Abbas a medallion with an angel on it and said: “It is appropriate because you are an angel of peace.” The Guardian then added this:

The Vatican on Sunday issued a statement regarding the Pope’s apparent comments to Abbas. It said that the angel meant “messenger”. The Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said he did not hear the precise words that were spoken between the Palestinian president and the pontiff.

“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 sole intention as well as many previous presentations of the same gift to presidents, not only to Abbas,” he said.

The Telegraph published a version of the same AFP report used by the Guardian, informing readers that “Pope calls Palestinian leader Abbas ‘angel of peace’ at Vatican meeting”

The headline in a Daily Mail report by Lucy Crossly on May 17th read: “Pope reaches out to the Middle East: Francis hails Palestinian leader as ‘angel of peace’ as two nuns are made the first Arabic-speaking saints in church’s history”.

A headline at The Independent, accompanying a March 16th article, claimed that “Pope Francis calls Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a ‘angel of peace“.

And, Channel 4 News also reported that the pope called “an angel of peace”.

Multiple reports in the American media included the same purported quote.

To those even minimally aware of Mahmoud Abbas’s record of praising terror attacks against Israelis, lionizing terrorists and even encouraging Palestinian violence at Jerusalem holy sites, news that the pontiff praised the Palestinian leader as ‘a man of peace’ came as quite a surprise.  


In fact, it turns out that the pope’s comments to Abbas were almost certainly mistranslated by AP, AFP and other news sites, from the original Italian.

The headline in the “Vatican Insider” section of the Italian newspaper Le Stampa is:

Pope embraces Abu Mazen and bids him to be an angel of peace

The original Italian report from Le Stampa is here

Il Giornale reports:

the pope met Abbas, “asking him to be ‘an angel of peace.’” 

This translation of the original Italian was also confirmed independently by UK Media Watch. 

Of course, there’s a big difference between the pope encouraging Abbas to be an angel of peace, and saying that he ‘is’ currently an angel of peace.

Once again, it appears that multiple UK news sites may have misled readers regarding a key element of a story relating to Israel , and once again the error sides in the Palestinians’ favor.


A Vatican spokesman said yesterday (May 18th) that he did not hear the exact words uttered by Pope Francis, but that they had been meant to encourage Abbas to be an angel of peace


CAMERA published a careful analysis last night (May 18th) of the row over the precise language used by Pope Francis, and concluded that, based on conflicting Italian media reports on the conversation, “it is not yet possible to claim that Pope Francis did not call Abbas a man of peace outright or that media coverage of the Pontiff describing Abbas as a man of peace is inaccurate.”

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