Jerusalem’s Role as a Holy City for Muslims

When Pope John Paul II made his historic March 2000 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he did so with the hopes of building bridges and fostered peace. While in Jerusalem, he scheduled a meeting with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders to symbolize his ongoing desire for religious reconciliation. The meeting turned out to be less than conciliatory, especially in regard to Jerusalem. When Chief Rabbi yisrael Meir Lau of Israel’s Ashkenazic community praised the pope for his “‘recognition of Jerusalem as its united, eternal capital’,” some audience members shouted out that the pope had not recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem (The pope supports a long-standing Catholic policy which calls for the internationalization of Jerusalem so that all faiths may worship in peace). Next Sheik Taysir Tamini, “deputy chief justice of the Palestinian Islamic court,” called for an independent state of Palestine with “its eternal capital” Jerusalem. The pope, who sat with his head in his hands through the speeches, responded in his prepared text by stating: “‘Religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination. . . . Religion and peace go together’.”

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