Pope Francis has expressed “concern” over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump made the announcement last week, and said the US embassy would move there from Tel Aviv.
Speaking just in advance of the decision, the Pope said he could not “keep silent” and called for respect for the “status quo of the city” in accordance with UN resolutions. He said Jerusalem was “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims”.
What local religious leaders said
The organisation of Islamic Cooperation has called an emergency summit to discuss the issue. Heads of state will be present. The Vatican, in a later statement, said the summit would be seeking “peace”.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church was also aggrieved, and responded by shunning US Vice-President Mike Pence, who requested a meeting during his visit to Cairo next week. In a statement, the Coptic Church said it “excused itself from hosting” Mr Pence, and explained that Trump’s decision “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people”.
Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, will also snub Mr Pence. “How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it?” he said, according to local media.
What commentators said
Trump had thrown “decades of long-standing US policy up in the air,” lamented Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post. There seemed to be little pressure from Israel or Washington to justify the move, which had caused distress across the region. The upside,though, was that Trump’s move may “refocus the conversation on the moral conundrum of perpetuating [Israel’s] indefinite occupation”.
National Review’s David French disagreed. This was “one of the best, most moral and important decisions” Trump had made. He stood against an “unholy mixture of anti-Semites and eliminationists” who used diplomatic and cultural pressure to “isolate the Jewish nation”. International bodies “hold Israel to higher standards than any other nation on earth”. Trump had resisted the “bigots”.
✣Amnesty breaks the law over cash for abortion lobbying
Amnesty may face a criminal investigation in Ireland after it refused to return money donated by a fund backed by billionaire George Soros. The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) told Amnesty to pay back €137,000 from the Open Societies Foundation (OSF) as the grant contravenes electoral law. But the charity has refused.
Why was it under-reported?
The story has the universal problem of financial news: it quickly enters the territory of legal and fiscal complexity. But the law is simple enough: the 1997 Electoral Act forbids donations of more than €100 from overseas groups for “electoral purposes”. And the donation was for an electoral purpose: campaigning for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s constitution, which protects the right to life of the unborn. David Quinn, a Sunday Times columnist, said there was another reason the story had been overlooked: the “bias” of Ireland’s media.
What will happen next?
Amnesty’s response was clear: “This is an indefensible law. We will not comply.” Executive director Colm O’Gorman said: “This amounts to the targeting of organisations purely for their work on human rights and equality issues.” The charity now plans to campaign to amend Ireland’s law on election funding, which it says has been applied too broadly. The question is whether the case will come to court, or whether SIPO or Amnesty can be persuaded to back down. It may not be resolved before the 2018 referendum.
✣The week ahead
Pope Francis will turn 81 on Sunday. Last year for his birthday he had breakfast with homeless people, celebrated Mass with cardinals and kept up his normal working day of meetings. In his homily he admitted that old age was a “thought that frightens me”. He also arranged for 1,500 birthday cakes to be sent to kitchens serving the poor and homeless.
Punk rocker Patti Smith will be among performers at the Vatican Christmas concert tomorrow. The proceeds will go to two charities. One helps children forced to work in mines in the Congo. The other campaigns against online bullying.
Regional elections will take place in Catalonia next Thursday. The last government was dissolved after it declared independence from Spain and several pro-independence leaders are campaigning for re-election from jail. Voting is likely to be evenly split between parties opposed to independence and in favour. Cardinal Cañizares said there was “no Church basis for secession”.
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