Pope concerned by U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

| Junno Arocho Esteves | December 6, 2017 | 5 Comments

U.S. President Donald Trump places a note in the Western Wall in Jerusalem May 22. Following reports that Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis expressed his concern that such a move would further destabilize the Middle East. CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis expressed his concern that such a move would further destabilize the Middle East.

Pope Francis said he could not “keep silent about my deep concern” for Jerusalem and urged respect for “the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.”

The pope spoke at the end of his weekly general audience Dec. 6, the same day Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made the same promises during their campaigns, but once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Trump drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.

According to Vatican Radio, the pope received a telephone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Dec. 5 regarding Trump’s plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

The conversation was “part of a series of contacts made by the president of the Palestinian National Authority after his conversation with Donald Trump during which — according to Abbas’ spokesman — the U.S. president announced his intention to move the American embassy,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Vatican Radio.

The Vatican supports a “two-state solution” for the Holy Land with independence, recognition and secure borders for both Israel and Palestine.

At the same time, the Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

In his appeal, Pope Francis said, “Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.”

Since the early 1990s, the Vatican has seen as separate issues the need for a special status for the city and questions over the political sovereignty or control of Jerusalem. The political question, it has insisted, must be the result of negotiation.

The internationally unsettled status of Jerusalem and its central importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians explains why, while recognizing the state of Israel, no nation has its embassy in the holy city.

“I pray to the Lord that this identity would be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence would prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts,” the pope said.

Before the audience, Pope Francis met with religious leaders from Palestine attending a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Dialogue, the pope said, takes place at every level, especially “in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society.”

However, a key condition for dialogue is mutual respect and a commitment to strengthen that respect “for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be,” he said.

“Dialogue is the source of greater mutual knowledge, greater mutual esteem and cooperation in the pursuit of the common good, and generous cooperation in ensuring that those in need receive all necessary assistance,” Pope Francis said.

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  • Charles C.

    I’m not sure that the Holy Father needs to worry.

    Declaring that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol is only a recognition of reality. Israel has identified Jerusalem as their capitol, it’s parliament is there as well as almost all of it’s government agencies. What allows the rest of the world to determine where a country’s capitol is?

    This declaration doesn’t change a single fact on the ground. Not a single stone in the city will be affected, no one will have their access to the city changed, no border will move even an inch.

    Over twenty years ago a law was passed calling on the president to declare Jerusalem the undivided capitol of Israel although six month extensions could be granted if demanded by American security needs. Presidents have been dodging this decision for decades and what has it gained?

    If His Holiness desires peace in the region, why follow the same unsuccessful pattern of the last twenty-plus years? Various plans have been presented and the Palestinians have rejected all of them. The most recent best hope is the plan of the Saudis, which has a two month deadline (I have hopes for that one).

    If the fear is that there will be rioting in portions of the Arab world, there is an easy solution. All we need to do is ask the Palestinians, Iranians, etc. what foreign policy they would like us to follow. If our foreign policies are controlled by the fear that a group terrorizing the world already will do more of it, we can shut down the State Department, or even our entire government.

    And if the concern is that the “peace process” will be jeopardized, the easiest response is what peace process? Even John Kerry couldn’t get a serious peace negotiation started. We’d like to pretend there is such a process, that the world will be saved with another twenty years of fruitless policies, but there’s no real reason to expect it.

    So rest well, Your Holiness, this decision doesn’t change existing facts on the ground and may bring us closer to the point where the Palestinians grow up and start working for peace.

  • Charles C.

    A follow up thought.

    Let’s assume that some groups in the Mid-east decide to riot, kill, and declare that there can be no peace because the US decides to consider Jerusalem the capital of Israel. To me, that seems like an over-reaction best described as insane and rabid. Yet the Pope and others speak as though they expect it. Isn’t that an insult to a religion and its believers? In short, isn’t that Islamophobia? The idea that the followers of a religion can’t exercise prudence, judgment, and self-control seems to be a sterotyping insult.

    But if they are correct, that many Muslims can’t control themselves or are just looking for an excuse to get violent, that might be grounds for a true Islamophobia, a fear of Islamic believers.

  • pete salveinini

    A truly courageous decision and a SIGN of God’s will and a sign of the prophecies of the OT about the Jews will come about.
    Prudence is opposed by two extremes, the first is rash judgment, BUT THE SECOND IS PUSILANITY, or being small souled, “don’t ever rock the boat”. The President has a magnanimous spirit. He said recently that he wanted to be the most praying president in history, and I bet he PRAYED for guidance! A sign of Greatness of soul.
    The Jews will be the last nation to accept Jesus as a people. This decision points to the day when that will happen in the coming NEW ERA .

    • Charles C.

      Do you mind if I babble for a bit? This isn’t a well thought out argument, but an impression or two.

      America is a great nation, large in the sense of being large-hearted and large-souled. We rush to provide aid for the suffering and soldiers to defend the innocent and abused. There is something admirable and magnificent about America. We lead the world in charitable donations, scientific advances, and the efficient production of vast amounts of goods and services. If “Western Civilization” still exists, we are it’s staunchest defenders. Trump’s decision is in line with those glories.

      Sadly, the nation is being torn apart, divided into groups which are told they have massive grievances and have to destroy the country and its traditions to set things right. This decision, and others, are efforts to reestablish the strength, unity, and moral authority of the nation. It is beginning to appear as though they are working. But the battle between the uniters and the destroyers isn’t even close to over, indeed it is just beginning. The uniters didn’t have a champion, a general, before and the dividers realize that they are in a fight and won’t be able to simply walk to their victory of a destroyed country.

  • Charles C.

    Two and a half weeks and there is no sign that the Mid-East is bursting into unusual strife. The riots and protests were small and quickly over. If President Trump did gamble, it looks like his bet is paying off so far.