Due to the twists and turns of history, the Vatican or Holy See functions as a nation-state with a diplomatic corps as well as being the spiritual center of the Catholic community. This unique situation gives rise to the question of international diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and this particular religious institution, the Catholic Church. Relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel have radically changed since 1904 when Theodore Herzl received no support from Pope Pius X for his project to establish a Jewish homeland. When Israel was founded in 1948, there were a number of impediments to the establishment of relations with the Holy See, some theological, some political. On the political side, periodic wars, continuing territorial disputes, and the legal status of Jerusalem all posed difficulties. However, in 1965 the Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra Aetate repudiated the long-standing Christian idea that Jews were divinely cursed to homeless wandering. In principle this removed any religious objection to friendly international relations between Israel and the Catholic Church. A "Fundamental Agreement" was reached in 1993 that led to formal diplomatic relations between the Jewish state and the Vatican. Although in 1964 Pope Paul VI became the first pope since apostolic times to visit the region, it was not until the journey of Pope John Paul II in 2000 that the full potential of normalized diplomatic relations could be seen.
The following links provide political and theological background for Pope Benedict's XVI official visit to the State of Israel in May.
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