July 29 - The Vatican, in a sharp retort to Israeli criticism of PopeBenedict XVI, said it could not protest every act of Palestinian terrorismbecause Israel's responses are "not always compatible with the norms ofinternational law."

The unusually pointed statement issued by the Vatican on Thursday (July28) follows Israeli criticism that the pope ignored Israel when mentioningterrorist attacks in London, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey last Sunday (July 24).

Israel summoned the Holy See's ambassador to Israel to lodge a formalcomplaint, but the Vatican statement called the complaints "groundless." Thechurch appeared particularly angry at suggestions that the late Pope JohnPaul II had been silent on the issue.

"Not every attack against Israel could be followed by an immediatepublic condemnation," the church said.

"There are several reasons for this, among them the fact that attacksagainst Israel were sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions notalways compatible with the norms of international law. It would,consequently, have been impossible to condemn the former and remain silenton the latter."

The public war of words between the Vatican and Jerusalem has threatenedto sour the new pope's overtures to Jews, as well as John Paul's long legacyof unprecedented good relations with Jews.

John Paul established formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994.The statement also warned Israel against trying to influence the Holy See'sinternational diplomacy.

"Just as the Israeli government understandably does not allow itspronouncements to be dictated by others, neither can the Holy See acceptlessons and directives from any other authority concerning the orientationand contents of its own declarations," it said.