Pope makes 'heartfelt appeal' to preserve 'status quo' in Jerusalem

Dec 07, 2017, 01:23

His intervention comes ahead of the expected announcement that the United States will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In his general audience, Pope Francis noted how Jerusalem is a "unique city" that is considered holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The decision could potentially dismantle 22 years of US foreign policy in the Middle East and would likely enrage Muslims who view Jerusalem as the potential capital of the Palestinian state.

"I cannot keep silent my deep concern about the situation that has occurred in recent days, while urging everyone to respect the status quo of the city in accordance with United Nations resolutions", said Pope Francis in a speech in Vatican City in the afternoon.

The pope told thousands of people at his general audience: "I can not keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days".

"I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts".

Advent is a time to be watchful and alert to the ways one strays from God's path, but also to signs of his presence in other people and in the beauty of the world, Pope Francis said.

The Vatican and the Palestinians plan to create a permanent working group on interfaith issues.

Francis pointed to the meeting with representatives of the various religious communities in the nation as a crucial step toward peace and encouraged further interreligious dialogue between Catholics and Buddhists to fight evil and promote peace.

Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned the move is a threat to the Middle East peace process.

"The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be".

Prior to his general audience, the Pope met with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders for a scheduled audience, urging dialogue that is respectful of everyone's rights in the Holy Land.

The Holy See recognised the Palestinian state in 2015.

He noted how his November 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.

This irked Israel because his predecessor had always gone first to Israel and entered the territories from Israel.

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