On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized two 19th-century nuns from what was then Palestine, the Associated Press reports. The canonization was attended by some 2,000 pilgrims from the region, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The pope called Abbas “an angel of peace” when the two met on Saturday, the New York Times reports. In a statement on Sunday, Abbas said that the canonization “affirms our determination to build a sovereign, independent and free Palestine based on the principles of equal citizenship.”

Earlier this week, the Vatican signed a treaty that included recognition of “the state of Palestine.”

“The wider Arab world often thinks that it’s a Christian West against a Muslim East,” Father Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Jerusalem, told the Times.

“This is an important step from the Catholic Church to show that, no, it is standing with the rights of Palestinians and with the right to a state of Palestine.”

Photo credit: AP Images. Contact the author of this post: brendan.oconnor@gawker.com.