The Holy Land’s most senior Roman Catholic bishop has spoken out against President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
Talking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, warned that the move could increase tensions in the region.
He said: “I think that this will create a big problem, an explosion in all of the Arab countries especially the Muslim countries. Jerusalem should be at the end of these negotiations, not the beginning. And any unilateral decision will create more frustration, and anger and I’m afraid will bring to more violence. I don’t think it is wise to do it in this way.”
Archbishop Pizzaballa was also signatory to a letter to US President Trump from the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem – representing the region’s Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians – which cautioned against relocating the US Embassy. The letter stated: “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.”
The US leased a site in Jerusalem for a new embassy in the 1989 following the passing of a 1980 law by Israel’s Knesset declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel – a law which provoked controversy, being declared “null and void” by a resolution of the UN Security Council.
The US Congress passed legislation in 1995 to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to the City of Jerusalem, but every president from Bill Clinton onwards has used a presidential waiver to prevent the Jerusalem Embassy Act from taking effect. On Wednesday (6th December) President Trump announced that he would not be exercising the waiver which his predecessors have.
Archbishop Pizzaballa also stressed to ACN that Jerusalem is an important site for all of the world’s monotheistic religions. He said: “Jerusalem is the holy city for all. It is the heart of the life of the Faith. If you do not understand that in the Middle East – for Arab countries and Israel too, they are religious, that the religious element is part of their identity – you don’t understand the Middle East. And in this religious identity Jerusalem is central. As long as the religious community doesn’t have an inclusive approach it will be almost impossible to compromise on Jerusalem.”