JERUSALEM — The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land says the status of Jerusalem should not be altered by “unilateral decisions,” amid protests over the U.S. recognition of the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa said in a statement Wednesday that “unilateral decisions will not bring peace, but rather will distance it. Jerusalem is a treasure of all humanity. Any exclusive claim — be it political or religious — is contrary to the city’s own logic.”
President Donald Trump’s declaration earlier this month departed from decades of U.S. policy that the fate of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which includes sites holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews, as the capital of their future state. Israel claims the whole city as its capital.
Pizzaballa’s comments reinforce positions both of Pope Francis personally and of the Vatican’s broader diplomatic apparatus.
Just hours before Trump made the announcement of the embassy move on Dec. 6, Pope Francis had urged him not to do it.
“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.
Four days later, the Vatican backed up that stance with a corporate statement.
“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 in a communique released by the Vatican Press Office.
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.