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Holy See won't raise flag at the UN before Pope Francis visits

UNITED NATIONS -- The Holy See said Wednesday it will not raise its flag at the United Nations before Pope Francis addresses the world body later this month if the U.N. approves a resolution allowing non-member observer states to fly their flags alongside the 193 member states.

The Holy See and Palestine are the only states that are not U.N. members. The Palestinians have sponsored the resolution and hope President Mahmoud Abbas can raise their flag when he addresses the annual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly on Sept. 30.

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Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour said he expects the General Assembly to overwhelmingly support the resolution when it votes on Thursday afternoon. Since its founding 70 years ago, only the flags of U.N. member states have flown outside U.N. premises.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican's apostolic nuncio and U.N. ambassador, told a news conference that the Holy See did not want its name mentioned in the resolution and did not co-sponsor it "because we have generally different priorities."

Auza said the Holy See "didn't have any intention to change the practice of the United Nations since its foundation, but we are not against the Palestinians asking for it."

As for the Holy See raising its flag before the pope visits the United Nations on Sept. 25, Auza said, "absolutely not -- we have no intention to do that."

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But he would not say whether the flag might fly at the U.N. in the future.

"That question is open," Auza said. "I couldn't say anything what the Holy See will do later on."

Israel has urged U.N. leaders to reject the Palestinians attempt to raise their flag and the country's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor has accused the Palestinians of "attempting to swiftly change longstanding U.N. tradition in order to score political points."

The Vatican has diplomatic relations with both Israel and the Palestinians.

In 1965, the Vatican rejected some 2,000 years of Catholic teachings that Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Christ. And after decades of reluctance to recognize the Jewish state, Polish-born Pope John Paul II forged formal relations with Israel in 1993.

The Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine only a few months ago, in May. With Pope Francis' decision, the Holy See joined some 135 other countries - the vast majority of states in Asia, Africa and Latin America - that recognize Palestine.

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