Pope Francis spoke in support of the “status quo” in Jerusalem on Wednesday, calling for “wisdom and prudence” in order to avoid conflict.
The Roman Catholic leader's comments came after President Donald Trump announced plans for the U.S. to support the relocation of the Israeli capital to Jerusalem -- and for the U.S. Embassy to be relocated there as well.
The pope said he was “profoundly concerned” about recent developments regarding Jerusalem, which he called a “special vocation for peace” and a sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
He appealed to all sides to respect “the status quo of the city” as according to the United Nations resolutions.
“I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts,” the pope added.
Francis expressed his views about Jerusalem during a meeting with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders and at a weekly Wednesday audience. The Vatican said the meeting with Palestinians was pre-arranged and happened to coincide with Trump’s announcement the same day.
At the meeting, the pope said dialogue between all parties would come only through "recognizing the rights of all people," noting that the Holy Land was the "land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind."
"The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be.”
The calls against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel continues to grow across the Islamic world. In addition to multiple countries’ officials coming out against the move, two leading Lebanese newspapers issued scathing editorials against the U.S.
The English-language Daily Star newspaper’s front page features a full-page photo of Old City of Jerusalem with a headline reading: “No offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of PALESTINE."
Another paper, the An-Nahar, compared Trump to the late British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour who a hundred years ago issued a public statement now known as the Balfour declaration that supported the creation a national home for the Jewish people in the territory know as Palestine.
"Trump, Balfour of the century, gifts Jerusalem to Israel,” the paper's Wednesday headline reads.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.