As the State Department was lashing out at Israel’s defense minister for saying the secretary of State has a “messianic” complex, John Kerry was at the Vatican calling for the need to forge “reconciliation among peoples, to bring religions together, to bring people together, and to make peace.”

“Secretary of State John Kerry – who has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict with the Palestinians,” newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as saying behind closed doors. “The only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel prize and leaves us alone.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki fired back that the remarks were “offensive and inappropriate, especially given all that the United States is doing to support Israel’s security needs.”

Kerry has been pushing Israel hard to accept concessions to jump start the Middle East peace process, considered a priority legacy issue for both Kerry and President Obama.

Meeting today with Secretary of State of the Holy See Pietro Parolin in Rome, Kerry first waxed about how “as an altar boy, as a young kid, I would never have imagined that I would have been crossing the threshold of the Vatican to meet, as Secretary of State, with the Secretary of State of the Holy See.”

Kerry said Archbishop Parolin “asked me for a solid briefing with respect to the Middle East peace process.”

“Pope Francis will be going to Israel and the Palestinian territories and to Jordan in May, and so we agreed, after I gave a briefing, that we would stay in touch in order to keep him abreast of what we’re doing and then what progress there may be in the peace process. But obviously, there are issues of enormous concern to the Holy See, not just about peace, but also about the freedom of access for religious worship in Jerusalem for all religions and appropriate resolution with respect to Jerusalem that respects that going forward,” he said.

“We talked about the common interest of Pope Francis and President Obama in addressing poverty and extreme poverty on a global basis… So this was as comprehensive a conversation as I’ve had with any secretary of state or foreign minister in the course of my tenure, and I think, happily, we agreed on an enormous amount of things that we can cooperate on.”

Kerry said “we need to find all of the voices that are prepared to fight for anti-poverty or peace or for reconciliation among peoples, to bring religions together, to bring people together, and to make peace.”

“I’m particularly pleased to know that the Holy Father and the Secretary of State in the Holy See will continue to speak out about peace in the Middle East, continue to try to bring the parties together, continue to help address some of the most pressing concerns that are challenging failed states and failing states in too many parts of the world,” he added. “…I’m confident that the groundwork and agreement that we reached with respect to the peace process, as well as a number of other urgent priorities, will help us as we go forward in the next days and months.”