The official custodian of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher — one of the most sacred sites in Christianity — is refusing to welcome Vice President Pence when he visits the Old City of Jerusalem this month following President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“It has come to our attention that Vice President Pence intends to make an official visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and asked me to receive him officially,” the custodian, Adeeb Joudeh, wrote in a letter on Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News.
“I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and I will not be physically in church during his visit,” he continued.
“This is an expression of my condemnation of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is said to contain the sites where Jesus Christ was crucified and where Christians believe he was buried and resurrected.
Church officials tried to downplay Joudeh’s letter.
“We didn’t receive any formal or informal request and if there is a request, there is a status quo procedure to respect involving the three communities. Anyway it is not up to one of the key keepers to decide anything about this kind of issue,” a church official said, according to The Times of Israel.
The Hill added:
A senior church official told the publication that no visit had been planned.
Pence, who was raised Roman Catholic and now identifies as an evangelical Christian, is set to travel throughout the region this month seeking an “end to the persecution of Christians and all religious minorities.”
However, a prominent Christian group in the region has signaled they will not welcome Pence on his official visit in the wake of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.
Last week, the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church said he refuses to meet with Pence, saying Trump’s decision came “at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people.”
Prior to Trump’s decision, a group of Christian churches in the Old City wrote President Trump a letter urging him not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s decision broke with decades of U.S. policy and has sparked unrest in the region, with Palestinians viewing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and the international community largely recognizing Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel.