Pope Francis has expressed his “deep concern” at President Donald Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel arguing the move will create more tensions in the Holy Land and stressing the city is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Francis made his comments to a gathering in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall following news that the United States president is planning to move the country’s embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern over the situation that has arisen in recent days and, at the same time, a heartfelt appeal so that everyone would be committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relative resolutions to the United Nations,” Francis said at the General Audience today (6 December).
While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The city is also home to important sacred sites for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Before speaking out today, the Pope took a phone call from President Mahmoud Abbas urging them to intervene against Trump’s plan, which Palestinians and Arab leaders say will jeopardise the Middle East peace process.
“President Abbas spoke after his call with President Trump with the presidents of Russia and France, with the Pope and with King Abdullah of Jordan. He told them such a move was rejected and he urged them to intervene to prevent it from happening,” Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.
At 9am this morning Francis met with a Palestinian delegation taking part in discussions with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue where he stressed that for Christians the Holy Land is a “land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind.” He also praised President Abbas for his kindness to Christian community in Palestine including for acknowledge their place in Palestinian society.
The Pope has shown sympathy to Palestine, famously stopping his popemobile during his trip to the Holy Land in order to pray in front of the security wall built by Israel on Jerusalem’s west bank
And during his papacy the Holy See signed its first treaty with the State of Palestine as the two proceeded to full diplomatic relations. Francis - who counts Argentine Rabbi, Abraham Skorka, has one of his close friends - also brought then Israeli president Shimon Peres and President Abbas to the Vatican to pray and plant an olive tree for peace in the Vatican gardens.
Francis and his predecessors have persistently called for peace in the Middle East and are long time supporters of a two state solution.
President Trump’s move would be the first time a country has recognised Israel’s capital as Jerusalem since it was formed as a state in 1948. The Holy See has full diplomatic relations with Israel and has its nunciature in the old city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv.
Source: The Tablet