Pope Francis on Wednesday called on all parties to respect the “status quo” of Jerusalem, hours ahead of an expected announcement from the United States on the recognition of the city as the capital of Israel.
Francis expressed his “deep concern for the situation that has arisen in the past days,” and issued “a heartfelt appeal for everybody to commit to respecting the city’s status quo, in compliance with relevant United Nations resolutions.”
Speaking during his weekly audience from a Vatican conference hall, the pope described Jerusalem as “a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” with “a special vocation for peace.”
“I pray to the Lord that … wisdom and caution will prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world scenario that is already distressed and marked by many and cruel conflicts ” Francis added.
President Donald Trump was expected to announce later Wednesday that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, upending decades of US foreign policy, despite fears that such a move may stoke violence and instability in the region.
Jerusalem is claimed by both the Israelis and Palestinians as their capital.
Jerusalem is a holy city to all three major monotheist religions. It is home to major shrines such as Judaism’s the Wailing Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock for Muslims, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The pope visited it in 2014, and in the same year he hosted peace prayers at the Vatican with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
In 2015, the Vatican recognized Palestine statehood, drawing criticism from Israel.