ROME – Once again expressing its alarm over U.S. President Donald Trump’s relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that has provoked violent clashes across the Middle East, the Vatican on Sunday called for “wisdom and prudence” and affirmed “the essential need for respecting the status quo.”
Trump made the embassy announcement last Wednesday, just hours after Pope Francis had issued a last-minute appeal to avoid such a destabilizing gesture.
“I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations,” Francis said that day.
Sunday’s statement, released in the form of a communique from the Vatican Press Office, marks the first time the Vatican has spoken on the embassy controversy since the decision became official.
“In expressing his sorrow for the clashes in recent days that have produced victims, the Holy Father renews his appeal for the wisdom and prudence of everyone, and raises 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,” it said.
The language about “clashes” was a reference to several places in the Middle East where protests have broken out, including Jerusalem itself, where outraged Palestinians are in their third self-declared “day of rage.” Clashes between police and protestors have also occurred in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon.
The Vatican also expressed support for emergency Arab initiatives called to try to respond to the fallout.
“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 Vatican statement said.
“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 Vatican also restated its long-standing diplomatic positions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
“At the same time the Holy See reiterates its own 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.
During his regular Angelus address on Sunday, Francis himself did not address the embassy controversy in Jerusalem, instead praising both the push for nuclear disarmament and efforts to implement the climate change accords agreed upon in Paris in December 2015.
According to some observers, the Paris agreement was strengthened by the moral support for action on climate change provided by Francis’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’.