Pope Francis has stated his “concern” over US president Donald Trump’s expected decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The Pope said he “cannot keep silent” over the “situation that has arisen in recent days”, and called for respect for the “status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations”.
“Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, who venerate the Holy Places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.
“I pray to the Lord that this identity would be preserve and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence would prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and marked by many cruel conflicts.”
President Trump is expected to announce today that the United States recognises the city as the Israeli capital, and that the US will relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Although the embassy move will take several years, Trump has directed the US State Department to “start the process”.
One US official said: “US policy is going to be honest about a reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It has been the capital of the Israeli people since ancient times. It’s undeniable, it’s just a fact.”
The status of the city remains disputed. Palestinians insist there is no hope of a peace agreement unless they can use the east of the city as their capital, but the Israelis claim the whole city as their own.
A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas described the move as “unacceptable”.
Mr Abbas is also understood to have called Pope Francis to express his concerns about the move.
Leaders from the Arab League and from Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have called on President to Trump to reconsider.