A senior Vatican official said on Wednesday that, "Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to return to their homeland." The comment was made by Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the department charged with such policy. Although Martino did not elaborate on whether such right of return would be fulfilled by immigrating to a new Palestinian state, his comment will undoubtedly be ill-received by Israeli officials. While the Palestinians demand that Israel allow any Palestinian who fled when the state was created in 1948 to return, Israel steadfastly rejects the idea, claiming it would be demographic suicide for the Jewish state. Israel has a population of 7 million, and according to Palestinian sources, 4.5 million Palestinians qualify as "refugees." A Vatican official recently said that relations between the Holy See and the Jewish state have deteriorated since diplomatic relations were established several years ago.