As President Trump’s announcement today puts Jerusalem in the world’s headlines and raises questions about its political future, the debate about religious coexistence in the city will come to the UK later this month with the visit of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III. The Patriarch is visiting as part of an international tour to gather a coalition in opposition to a proposed Bill in the Israeli Parliament which would enable the Government to confiscate Church lands, a development that the World Council of Churches has said would “jeopardize the future long-term viability of the church and Christian community”.
Whilst in the UK Patriarch Theophilos will meet with a number of senior political and faith leaders, having already discussed this issue with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols on a previous visit last month.
As well as receiving the support of the World Council of Churches, the Patriarch has also been joined by Pope Francis, who today renewed his “heartfelt appeal for everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s Status Quo”. He has also been supported by a number of political leaders including the King of Jordan who serves as the custodian of Jerusalem’s Holy sites.
A senior figure working for the Patriarch said of today’s news “As we consider President Trump’s announcement, we must not lose sight of how important upholding the freedom of the faith communities is to peace in the Holy Land. As the eyes of the world look to Jerusalem once more, we hope that they will linger long enough to see the danger posed by the proposed Bill of Church Lands and more seriously the movement of radical settler groups in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
The Patriarch was among signatories of Jerusalem church leaders in a letter to Trump today pleading with him to rethink this threat to the ‘international’ status of Jerusalem.