First Published: 2017-12-20

Catholic leader in Jerusalem says Trump recognition 'harms Christians'
Trump's recognition of Jerusalem has been met with condemnation, near-daily protests across occupied Palestinian territories.
Middle East Online

"No one has a monopoly on Jesus, not even the Evangelicals."

JERUSALEM - The Catholic church's top official in Jerusalem on Wednesday criticised Donald Trump's controversial recognition of the city as Israel's capital, saying it damaged Christmas celebrations and led to hundreds cancelling trips.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, said "dozens" of groups had pulled out of planned visits after being scared off by the announcement and subsequent clashes.

He added that the heads of the Christian churches in Jerusalem would find it difficult to accept an official request by US Vice President Mike Pence to visit the city's holy Christian sites in January, calling for him to "listen more" to other Christians.

"Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas," Pizzaballa said of Trump's December 6 decision.

"After this there are some tensions in Jerusalem, Bethlehem also. This scared many people, so we've had less people than expected."

He stressed, though, that they would continue with planned Christmas celebrations.

Trump's recognition of Jerusalem, breaking with decades of US policy on one of the most complicated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been met with near-daily protests across the Palestinian territories.

Pizzaballa, the most senior Roman Catholic official in the Middle East, stressed the church was opposed to "unilateral" decisions on the future of Jerusalem.

Pence was supposed to visit Jerusalem this week, but it was delayed until January.

Pence's team cited key votes on US tax reform as the cause of the delay.

Christian leaders across the Middle East had said they were no longer willing to meet with Pence, an evangelical Christian, following Trump's decision.

Asked whether Pence could visit the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus's crucifixion, and other Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Pizzaballa said it would be a "problem" if he wanted to come on an official visit.

"We cannot say no to pilgrims, we are religious, we cannot say no to someone, even if he is the bigger sinner in the world," he said.

But if Pence requests an official visit, "sometimes we cannot neglect the political consequences or political aspects," he said without elaborating.

He said Pence should "listen more. No one has a monopoly on Jesus, not even the Evangelicals."

 

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

In Iraq's oil-rich Basra, shanty towns flourish

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever

Israeli fire neat Gaza border injures five Palestinian

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai

Iraq sentences over 300 people to death for IS links

Syria chemical weapons visit delayed after gunfire

Syria regime shells last jihadist pockets in Damascus

After the war is won, ‘we shall not return’ to Mosul

Saudi Arabia to host cinema test screening with 'Black Panther'

Trump voices support for US pastor jailed in Turkey

Rouhani says Iran will make or buy any weapons it needs

US fears ceding influence to Russia, Iran in Syria

Nationalist Erdogan ally calls for snap Turkey elections

Saudi renews offer to deploy troops to Syria

Kaveh Madani, Iran’s expat eco-warrior who was on too many fronts

UN to launch new Yemen plan to restart negotiations

Russia dismisses West's 'untimely' push on Syria

Turkey, Iran to press on with Russia alliance on Syria

Iraq sentences French IS member to life in jail

Inspection of Syria chemical attack scene in limbo

Golan Druze rally in support of Syria's Assad

Macron admits Syria strikes ‘solve nothing’

Rebels, regime agree new deal for exit from Syrian town

Syria retracts ‘false alarm’ missile attack report

Gulf split deepens in Somalia's Puntland region

MENA countries must spend $260 billion to meet power demands

Kuwaiti crown prince heads to the US for medical tests

Arab leaders unlikely to act on US Jerusalem move

EU to start talks with Morocco on new fishing deal inclusive of Western Sahara

Saudi-led coalition warns of 'painful' response over Yemen drones

France seeks to revoke Assad's Legion of Honour

Syrian air defence shoots down missiles over Homs