On Sunday the Vatican issued a communiqué appealing for cooperation with groups like the Arab League that are concerned with the recent decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Concerns about the prospectives for peace in the region are the object in these days of various initiatives, among them meetings called urgently by the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation,” the communiqué read.
“The Holy See is attentive to these concerns, and recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the Churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land,” it said.
The statement came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Israel from its present location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as formally recognizing the Holy City as the capital of the Israeli state. The communiqué was released in both Italian and English.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis appealed for respect for the “status quo” in Jerusalem, after the United States announced the transfer of its embassy in Israel to the Holy City.
“My thoughts now turn to Jerusalem,” the Pope said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall after his weekly General Audience. “I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the last days.”
“At the same time, I would like to make a heartfelt appeal for everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s status quo, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions,” he said.
On the same day, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published an article titled “Trump Inflames the Middle East,” describing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel as igniting a powder keg in the region.
The article spoke of an increased “risk of terrorism in the region” as well as “mounting fears of possible demonstrations of protest and unrest.” The announcement has given rise to “profound perplexity” even within the Trump administration, the Vatican daily declared.
In its communiqué Sunday, the Vatican reiterated its “conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace, and guarantee the peaceful co-existence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”
The statement said that the Holy See “follows with great attention the developments of the situation in the Middle East, with special reference to Jerusalem, a sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims from all over the world.”
It also conveyed the Pope’s “sorrow for the clashes in recent days that have produced victims,” as well as his renewed appeal “for the wisdom and prudence of everyone” along with his “fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land.”
In 2015, Pope Francis affirmed the rights of the State of Israel, declaring that attacks on Israel and its right to exist constitute anti-Semitism.
“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism,” Francis said in an audience with delegates from the World Jewish Congress (WJC). “There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”
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