On December 6, the patriarchs and heads of the Christian churches in Jerusalem wrote a personal letter to President Donald Trump, appealing to him not to change how the United States understands the status of Jerusalem. Their plea for recognition of the international status of Jerusalem was strong but suppliant, indicating that a unilateral decision could increase hatred, conflict, violence and suffering. They were speaking, of course, from experience, because for centuries they themselves had engaged in an internal struggle for control that resulted in nothing but division and destruction. It was the Ottoman Empire, ironically, that negotiated a compact for peaceful relations among the contending Christians in the 18th century, calling it the “status quo.” Although tense at critical moments, that “status quo” has been maintained in the Holy Land for over 250 years.
A statement from the Vatican, in response to Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, noted the singular character of Jerusalem as “a sacred city for Christians, Jews and Muslims from all over the world,” and reiterated “the essential need for respecting the status quo.” The Holy See went on to express its longstanding conviction that only a negotiated solution between Palestinians and Israelis can bring about stability, which includes the recognition of a Palestinian State.
The status of Palestinians (Christians and Muslims living where Christ was born) is anything but peaceful today. This Christmas, we pray fervently for the status of the Holy Land announced by the angels: Peace on earth to people of good will.