Pope makes 'heartfelt appeal' to preserve 'status quo' in Jerusalem

Recognizing the Rights of All People is Important: Pope

The Pope has Called for Respect for the Status quo in Jerusalem

"Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims", he said, adding that it was home to sites deemed holy by followers of the three major monotheistic faiths.

"I pray to the Lord that this identity may be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Middle East and of the entire world", Francis continued, "and that wisdom and prudence prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in an already convulsed worldwide panorama marked by so many cruel conflicts".

The decision could potentially dismantle 22 years of USA foreign policy in the Middle East and would likely enrage Muslims who view Jerusalem as the potential capital of the Palestinian state.

Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.

Pope Francis says he can not remain silent about a White House plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its "united and eternal" capital.

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. The Holy See has always been against any change in the status of Jerusalem.

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Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, former Vatican envoy to the U.N.in Geneva, said any move away from the Status Quo in Jerusalem "could have unforeseen consequences".

The change is a recognition of "reality", officials said, both the historic reality that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish nation since ancient times and the modern reality that the city is the seat of Israel's government, housing its legislature, supreme court, prime minister, and executive agencies.

Francis made the appeal during his weekly audience, after speaking with the Palestinian leader and soon after meeting with a delegation of Palestinian religious and intellectual representatives in a previously scheduled audience.

He noted how his November 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a Pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.

The pope highlighted the value of dialogue and its importance for the Catholic Church, especially in the birthplace of Christianity.

We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.

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