Pope urges status quo, 'wisdom and prudence' for Jerusalem

Pope urges dialogue amid Jerusalem controversy

Describing the city as "holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims, who venerate the holy sites of their respective religions", the Pope said Jerusalem enjoys a unique status that should be preserved.

Pope Francis insisted that the status quo be "respected" in Israel by the USA government that has never recognized Jerusalem as the capital because Palestinians also claim that historic city as its capital.

Trump is expected to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday and begin preparations to move the U.S. Embassy to the city, three senior administration officials confirmed late Tuesday.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian minister of religious affairs, during a private meeting December 6 at the Vatican.

The Vatican backs a two-state solution to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, with both sides agreeing on the status of Jerusalem as part of the peace process. "And at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations".

In an open letter Christian leaders in Jerusalem said recognition of the city as the capital of Israel by the United States could have dire regional consequences.

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"I can not remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days", Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

The head of the Holy See called for the city's "status quo" to be respected, adding the USA move could exacerbate "cruel conflicts". The Vatican said the call with Francis was made at Abbas' initiative.

"The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind", he said.

Dialogue, the pope said, takes place at every level, especially "in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society".

Pope Francis stressed the importance of dialogue and "recognizing the rights of all people" in the Holy Land in an address to Palestinians. Francis, former Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II all visited Israel and Palestinian territories. The Vatican signed its first treaty with the "State of Palestine" the following year.

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