Pope Francis defends Jerusalem 'status quo'

Pacific Press  LightRocket via Getty Images

Pacific Press LightRocket via Getty Images

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.

Pope Francis joined a chorus of negative reactions to Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and move its embassy there. While he said it was hard to predict the consequences, he said he feared "we will continue to see this tragedy of violence, destruction" and the forced movement of refugees, adding that "simple people, normal families will pay the highest price".

In response to Trump's announcement, patriarchs and heads of all churches in Jerusalem urged Trump to reconsider his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reiterating deep concerns of potentially escalating conflicts in a region sacred to Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

He noted that in the United States the pope's voice "is highly respected and listened to by a lot of people, so even for a simple political calculation, it would be useful for everybody to listen to the invitation the pope directs to all parties concerned".

Jerusalem remains at the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem - now occupied by Israel - might eventually serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian minister of religious affairs, during a private meeting December 6 at the Vatican. The call with the pontiff was made at Abbas' initiative, the Associated Press reported, citing Vatican officials.

In especially strong language, the pope added, "I pray to the Lord that such identity be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts".

World leaders have criticized President Donald Trump's decision to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He spoke of having open communication and holding talks between differing religions "and also in civil society". The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994.

The Vatican supports a two-state solution.

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