London, Jan.9 (ANI): A senior aide to the Pope has termed Gaza as "a big concentration camp", thereby igniting a serious diplomatic rift between the Vatican and Tel Aviv.
"Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp," President of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace Cardinal Renato Martino said in an interview.
Israel has condemned the Cardinal's statement strongly.
Responding to the Cardinal's comment, a spokesman of the Israel's Foreign Ministry said: "We are astounded to hear from a spiritual dignitary words that are so far removed from truth and dignity."
"The vocabulary of Hamas propaganda, coming from a member of the College of Cardinals, is a shocking and disappointing phenomenon," the Scotsman quoted the Israeli spokesman, as saying.
Jewish leaders in Germany also expressed their discontentment over the remarks of Cardinal Martino.
"He is either trying to nefariously disseminate anti-Israeli propaganda or he doesn't have the faintest clue about the murderous conditions inside a concentration camp," General Secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Stephan Kramer said.
Tension has been simmering between the Vatican and Israel since Pope Benedict's decision last October to press ahead with the canonisation of the wartime pontiff Pius XII.
Israel has questioned the role Pius played during the Second World War, and claimed that he did not do enough to speak out against the Holocaust. (ANI)