Pope Francis has called for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected to prevail to avoid further conflict, hours before the expected announcement that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
His appeal for Jerusalem comes shortly after news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel - a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the global community.
In 2012, the Vatican called for "an internationally guaranteed special statute" for Jerusalem, aimed at "safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places".
"I can not remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days and, at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations", the pope said December 6 in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
"My thought now goes to Jerusalem".
While West Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government, Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. "In this regard, I can not ignore my deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days", the Pope said December 6.
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Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during his weekly general audience, during which he recounted the phases of his recent November 27-Dec.
Trump is also expected to approve moving the USA embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although not immediately. The Holy See has always been against any change in the status of Jerusalem.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the city's status is marked as a final status issue to be decided in negotiations over a final peace agreement.
The pope made the appeal during his weekly audience in Vatican city after speaking with the Palestinian leader and Palestinian religious and intellectual representatives in a previously scheduled audience. According to the BBC, the United States would be the first nation to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since the nation was founded in 1948.
"They came to the Vatican with the intention of establishing a joint working group". He also voiced his hope that "peace and prosperity" would prevail for the Palestinian people. Renewed conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip soon thereafter.
Most importantly the pope, who has recently been under scrutiny by some for not calling out the Rohingya by name during his trip and by others for not focusing enough on the persecution against Christians, stressed his commitment to fostering peace.