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

Pacific Press  LightRocket via Getty Images

Pacific Press LightRocket via Getty Images

Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed concern about the situation regarding Jerusalem and called for the status quo there to be respected.

"My thought now goes to Jerusalem".

The conversation was "part of a series of contacts made by the president of the Palestinian National Authority after his conversation with Donald Trump during which - according to Abbas' spokesman - the USA president announced his intention to move the American embassy", Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Vatican Radio.

While West Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government, Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Arab leaders have warned the Trump administration's decision would subvert decades of USA foreign policy and risk triggering further conflicts and violence in the Middle East.

Francis made the appeal during his weekly audience, hours before the expected announcement that the U.S. is to recognise the city as Israel's 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.

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Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned the move is a threat to the Middle East peace process.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem will be discussed in the late stages of the talks. Because of this, he said the city has "a special vocation for peace".

"I pray to the Lord that this identity would be preserved 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 scarred by many cruel conflicts", the pope said.

The Pope called for dialogue that would respect the rights and interests of all of Jerusalem's inhabitants in a separate statement made earlier on Wednesday. The first focused on anti-Christian persecution, a reality that also exists in the country, and the second on young people "a sign of hope and a special gift of the Virgin Mary", which closed his visit. Renewed conflict broke out in the Gaza Strip soon thereafter.

In this context, Christians there are the "leaven of God", he said, and called the Church in Burma a "living and fervent" community that he had the joy of meeting and affirming in faith and communion.

Most importantly the pope, who has recently been under scrutiny by some for not calling out the Rohingya by name during his trip and by others for not focusing enough on the persecution against Christians, stressed his commitment to fostering peace.

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