Newspapers and media services in several countries mis-reported the facts of a meeting Pope Francis had with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The Jerusalem Post, the BBC, The New York Times, and Commentary magazine, all reported incorrectly that the pontiff referred to Abbas as an “angel of peace.” For example, Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary magazine said in an article published on May 17, entitled “Sorry, Your Holiness, But Abbas is No Angel.” No retraction has yet been made available from any other the above outlets.
According to a reported for La Stampa, an Italian daily, Pope Francis indeed met with Abbas, and is customary when heads of state meet each other, there was an exchange of gifts. When Pope Francis presented his gift to Abbas, according to La Stampa, “May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: May you be an angel of peace.” The gift the pope presented to Abbas was a copy of the Evangelii Gaudium, a Vatican document that explains “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked. . . . Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples.”
Pope Francis had called Abbas a “man of peace” during a 2014 visit to Bethlehem. By the same token, he called Israeli President Shimon Peres a “a man of peace” when he visited Jerusalem that year. The pope also invited both of the leaders to join him in prayer in the Vatican Gardens on June 8, 2014. At that meeting, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew also attended.