VATICAN CITY — Following days of violence and backlash after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Vatican appealed for "wisdom and prudence" to prevail.
The Holy See "reiterates its own conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders," the Vatican wrote in a statement Dec. 10.
President Trump announced his decision Dec. 6 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.
The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East, including a four-day protest in the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported. An Israeli security guard in Jerusalem, according to a report, was in critical condition after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the city's bus station.
Pope Francis "raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land," the Vatican stated.
Trump's decision also drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States' long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made similar promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital during their presidential campaigns. However, once in office, they didn't carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Arab League, a regional organization consisting of 22 Arabic-speaking member states, held an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 9 to discuss Trump's announcement, calling it "dangerous and unacceptable."
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital goes "against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace," said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League's secretary-general.
Just hours before Trump had announced his decision, Pope Francis urged respect for "the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations."
In his appeal, Pope Francis said, "Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace."
The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
"The Holy See is attentive to these concerns and, recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land," read the Vatican's statement Dec. 10.
Protests cause uncertainty in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Not far from where journalists lined up for positions outside the guard tower at Rachel's Tomb in anticipation of confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, life in Bethlehem continued. Trendy young Bethlehem residents and visitors were lunching on vegetarian pizza, quinoa and salmon salad, and sandwiches with names like Sexy Morning at the popular Zuwadeh Cafe.
"No benefit will come (of the demonstrations), but people are getting their frustrations out like they have the right to do. It's the least they can do," said Mahmoud Hamideh, 25.
Palestinians leaders called for three days of protests following U.S. President Donald Trump's official recognition Dec. 6 of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and demonstrations have broken out in the West Bank, Jordan and other parts of the Muslim world.
Palestinians reported one killed and at least 35 injured in clashes in the Gaza Strip, with about 115 Palestinians injured in all protests Dec. 8. In Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rock-throwing demonstrators.
Though concerned that a continuation of the hostilities may affect the busy Christmas season, shopkeepers and others in the tourism industry in Bethlehem said Dec. 8 that, for now, pilgrims aren't canceling reservations.