The Vatican has officially recognized Palestine in a new treaty that switches the Holy See's diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.
NPR's Sylvia Poggioli tells our Newscast unit the document still has to be signed.
The Vatican, in a statement, said the agreement had been concluded and will be "submitted to the respective authorities for approval ahead of setting a date in the near future for the signing."
"Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists," said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
The Vatican has referred to the state of Palestine since at least 2012.
"During Pope Francis' visit last year to the Holy Land, the official Vatican program referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as president of the state of Palestine. And, in its latest yearbook, the Palestinian ambassador to the Holy See is listed as representing the state of Palestine."
Abbas is scheduled to meet the pope on Saturday — the day before two new saints from the Holy Land are to be canonized.
The National Catholic Reporter says the text of today's agreement will not be released until it receives approval at the highest levels.
Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states and head of the Vatican delegation at the negotiations, told L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, that among other things, the agreement expresses hope for an end to tensions between Palestinians and Israel.
The Crux, the Boston Globe's website that covers the Catholic Church, provides some context about the Vatican's position on the Palestinian issue:
"Diplomatically, the Vatican has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, providing security assurances for Israel and sovereignty for the Palestinians.
"Rome also backs an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, including protection for holy sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity."
Israel said it was "disappointed" by the Vatican's announcement and was seeking clarification.