Pope Francis, speaking hours before President Trump announced today his order to eventually move the U.S. Embassy from the modern city of Tel Aviv to the ancient city of Jerusalem, which both Jews and Arabs claim as their capital, predicted the move would bring “new elements of tension to a global panorama that is already convulsed and marked by so many and cruel conflicts.”
Trump has had an uneasy relationship with the leader of Catholicism since the campaign when the Pope denounced politicians who sew seeds of fear about immigration and his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border,
“I appeal not to create walls,” Pope Francis said in February, “but to build bridges.”
The Pope and the president seemed to reach an uneasy truce at the Vatican when Trump was in Europe for the G20 meetings earlier this year, but now Francis is again speaking out, clearing intending his remarks to push Trump to reconsider moving the Embassy.
“I cannot keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days,” the Pope said last night.
While moving the Embassy fulfills a promise Trump made on the campaign trail last year, it seems like the Pope is right that doing this now goes against his more recent promise to help bring peace to the troubled Middle East, where so many presidents have tried and failed to help cool the volatile situation in the past.
As recently as May, President Trump vowed that he would help broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, promising that “we will get this done.”
Trump chose his son-in-law Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, to be in charge of efforts to bring peace to the troubled region; appointed a supporter of the Israeli political hawks to be his ambassador to Israel,
Predictably, those efforts have gone nowhere.
Now Trump has thrown the major monkey wrench into the uneasy relationship with the Arabs with his plan to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
Pope Francis made his latest comments at the end of his weekly general audience at the Vatican, calling on all sides to honor the U.N. resolutions on the city that is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
In advance of his speech, according to Reuters, the Pope met privately with a group of Palestinians who have participated in an inter-religious dialogue with the Vatican, which is on record seeking a two-state solution to the problems between Arabs and Jews.
The Pope also spoke by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the latest problem.
The Vatican has had diplomatic relations with the Palestinian state since 2014. It has hand diplomatic relations with Isreal since 1994, after Pope Paul II and Pope Benedict both visited the region.
“The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind,” said the Pople in his speech, calling for dialogue between religions and “in civil society.”
“The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect,” added the Pope, “for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be.”
Trump has ignored the Pope before and obviously is not listening to his plea this time either. While Trump may feel that recognizing Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel is helpful, it is likely to anger the entire Arab world, and bring new problems – and make any U.S. role as a peace negotiator impossible.
Trump has burned that bridge and has likely inflamed the situation even worse than it was before this decision to move the American embassy.
Once again, Trump shows his lack of experience and skill as a diplomat, his inability to be a peacemaker and his flair for doing the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.