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Church weighs in on Trump’s Jerusalem

HONG KONG (SE): Pope Francis was quick to weigh in on the debate over the announcement from the president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, expressing his intention to move his embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus giving recognition to the controversial claim that the biblical city can be declared as the capital and territory of Israel.
The pope condemned the move and a few days later on December 10 a press release from the Holy See stressed that because of the sacred nature of Jerusalem to Christians, Jews and Muslims it should not be regarded as the exclusive territory of any particular state or people.
The press release expresses the sorrow of Pope Francis at hearing of the violence of the clashes that have broken out in the wake of Trump’s announcement and renews his appeal for prudence and wisdom to prevail in order to avoid further violence.
It adds that the Holy See is sensitive to the concerns expressed by the Arab League and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation. It also wishes to reinforce the long time stand of the Holy See that the holy city of Jerusalem has a singular character and that respecting the status quo is an indispensable condition of justice.
It cites Pope Francis as saying that is in accordance with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the Churches and of the Christian communities of the Holy Land.
The Holy See Press Office notes that the pope believes that the only solution to the standoff between Israel and Palestine is a negotiated one and he does not welcome foreign powers barging in and dictating how to resolve the situation.
“At the same time it reiterates its conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can lead to a stable and lasting peace and ensure the peaceful coexistence of the two states within internationally recognised borders,” the press release says.
The bishops of Europe have added their weight to the international appeal to respect the status of Jerusalem as a holy city, pointing out that is in line with a number of resolutions of the United Nations.
The president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences says that it is impossible to understand the Christian roots of Europe without the link to Jerusalem.
“The city is also for European people the home of our fathers, precisely because it is the home of the many peoples who venerate within this city the holy places of their respective religions,” the bishops’ council says in a statement released on December 10.
“We strongly believe that any change to the current situation may create a climate hostile to peace, as the events of these last few days have witnessed,” it concludes.
However, Maronite Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, was more direct in his condemnation, commenting that Trump has managed to upset everyone except himself.
Speaking from Beirut, Patriarch Raï said, “It is a slap in the face to Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and all the Arabs.”
Fides reported him as saying, “President Donald Trump’s move has demolished the peace efforts between Israel, Palestine and Arab countries, has fuelled the fire of a new intifada and transformed Jerusalem, the city of peace, into a city of war.”
On December 14, the patriarch convened a Christian-Muslim summit in Bkerkè to express a joint position on the question of the status of Jerusalem in light of the new tensions that Trump’s pronouncement has evoked.
Representatives of Christianity and Islam said after their meeting in Lebanon, “Most of us have already expressed our rejection of this decision either individually or on behalf of our communities. Today, we are meeting together to express this rejection with a single voice,” Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi was quoted by the Lebanese daily, L’Orient le jour, as saying.
“We regret that the president of a state regarded as a world power, which respects peace, could take such a decision, which negatively affects Christians and Muslims in the region,” he added.
“We demand the application of the international laws accepted since 1947, particularly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, which recognises Jerusalem as having a special status,” he said.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Archbishop Yohanna Yazigi, also strongly criticised the decision of the president of the US, calling it a contravention of international law and a serious injustice against the Palestinian people.
Archbishop Yazigi said that he believes that the move would be destined to fuel conflict and sabotage the entire peace movement in the region.

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