WCC joins Jerusalem church leaders’ plea for continuous free access to worship at Holy Sites
For the sake of peace, church leaders in Jerusalem are calling to maintain the historical status quo on the historical designation allowing access to al-Aqsa Mosque and its courtyard, as well as other Holy Sites in the city.
In an open letter, patriarchs and heads of local churches in Jerusalem, expressed concerns over change in the Historical Status Quo of Holy Sites after recent violence and developments around the mosque. “Any threat to its continuity and integrity could easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences which would be most unwelcome in the present tense religious climate,” the letter reads.
The church leaders called for continued free access to pray, particularly for thousands who pray there every Friday. Last week, after three Palestinians and two Israeli police officers were killed in a gun battle in the mosque compound, Israeli police closed and cancelled Friday noon prayers at the mosque, marking the first time in decades for such a closure.
World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Father Ioan Sauca, who is also deputy general secretary of the WCC and director of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, urged the WCC fellowship and its partners to unite in prayer for a just and peaceful solution in Jerusalem.
“Keeping the historical status quo and supporting equal rights for Christians, Muslims and Jews at these holy sites is vitally important to maintaining peace and de-escalating violence,” said Sauca. “Denying access to holy sites for thousands of people who have travelled far to pray is not only a violation of the rights of those individuals, but also a corrosive act in the midst of an already-fragile peace.”
Sauca urged a just and peaceful solution to the situation before noon on Friday, when thousands will travel to the al-Aqsa Mosque to pray. “We stand in solidarity with Muslims, Jews and Christians, and we pray that justice and peace will prevail, not only this week but in weeks and months to come.”