Church of England, British Catholic Church and local Christian leaders oppose move of British Embassy to Jerusalem


Cardinal Vincent Nichols in Rome, Italy, October 13, 2019. (Photo: Arthur Edwards/Pool via REUTERS)

Britain’s top Christian leaders have voiced their opposition to British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s idea of ​​moving the British Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital Jerusalem.

While embassies are normally located in a country’s capital, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, one of the most senior Catholic Church officials in Britain, has expressed ‘deep concern’ in the face of the change in British policy. In a letter to Truss, Nichols urged the British Prime Minister not to move the British Embassy to Jerusalem.

“A relocation of the UK Embassy would be seriously detrimental to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the UK’s international reputation,” Nichols said. declared.

Nichols is highly influential among British Catholic clergy, due to his position as President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Nichols argued that his opposition to the embassy move is consistent with the “status quo” policy in Jerusalem, advocated by the Catholic Church and defined by Islamic sentiment in the Jewish state.

“Pope Francis and the leaders of the Churches of the Holy Land have long called for the maintenance of the international status quo on Jerusalem, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions. The city should be shared as a common heritage, never becoming the exclusive monopoly of any party,” Nichols explained.

The American organization Stop Antisemitism criticized Nichols on social media while highlighting the conduct of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust.

“The Catholic Church did enough during World War II. Your comments and opinions are not needed – today or EVER. Perhaps you could instead spend your time returning the countless Jewish artifacts stolen from Jewish families during the Holocaust that you refuse to return,” the organization said.

However, opposition to the potential embassy move does not come only from the British Catholic Church. Church of England leader Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reportedly echoed Nichols’ concerns.

“The Archbishop is concerned about the potential impact of moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached,” the statement read. “He is in contact with Christian leaders in the Holy Land and continues to pray for peace in Jerusalem,” Welby’s spokesperson said in a statement to The Jewish Newsbased in Great Britain.

Local Christian leaders in Jerusalem also appear to oppose the move of the British Embassy to the capital. In an official statement on Monday, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem even called for considering moving the embassy to Jerusalem “as an additional obstacle to advancing the already moribund peace process.”

In their statement, dated October 10, church leaders said that only an initiative for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority “in order to move forward with a peace initiative bounded in time and by steps” that is consistent with “international law and relevant UN resolutions”. will lead to the establishment of a “just and lasting peace” in Jerusalem.

“[T]The very fact of reviewing the location of the British Embassy not only suggests that the negotiated agreements regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank have already resolved the ongoing disputes between the parties involved – when in fact this is not the case – but also implies that no such negotiations are necessary: ​​that the continued military occupation of these territories and the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem are both acceptable,” the Jerusalem-based Patriarchate said. “We can’t believe this is the message the UK government wants to send to the world.”

Earlier in October, ambassadors from all Arab states warned the British government against moving its embassy to Jerusalem. In a letter to the British Prime Minister, Arab diplomats warned that moving the British Embassy would be “illegal and misguided”.

The signatories included ambassadors from Arab states that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel – Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

In accordance with biblical promises, Israel regards Jerusalem as its undivided capital; nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority, which has already claimed statehood in various forums, has claimed “East” Jerusalem as its future capital.

While PA actions and policies align with the ultimate motive of replacing the Jewish people in the Promised Land, talk of upholding the ‘status quo’ vis-à-vis the Temple Mount implies a ban on Jewish worship. the low. The internationally defined “status quo” as it applies to Jerusalem itself, as seen by the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches, implies that the “ecclesiastical jurisdictions” perceived by the Churches [that]cover all the political territories of the Holy Land.

“The religious status quo in Jerusalem is essential to preserve the harmony of our holy city and the good relations between religious communities around the world,” the statement said. “Implicit to the recognition of this status quo is the above separate body which most of the world’s governments have applied by refraining from locating their embassies in Jerusalem until an agreement on the final status of the holy city has been reached”.

“The proposed move of the British Embassy to Jerusalem would seriously undermine this key principle…and the political negotiations it seeks to advance,” church leaders said.

While the political motive of these church leaders carries a perception of shared Christian jurisdiction over the territory of Israel, including its holiest city, Jerusalem, many countries, including in the West, appear to support the unilateral request by the PLO to establish an Arab capital in the eastern quarters of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, which – according to pre-1967 ceasefire lines – includes the Old City, the Western Wall and the Holy Temple Mount itself.

While Israel’s diplomatic position has improved considerably in recent years, most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. The only countries that have opened embassies in Jerusalem are the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and Kosovo. In addition, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Australia and Hungary have opened defense or trade branches in Jerusalem, to be associated with their Tel Aviv-based embassies.


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