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First Reading: 2 Chronicles 24:17-25

17 Now after the death of Jehoi'ada the princes of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king hearkened to them.
18 And they forsook the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Ashe'rim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt.
19 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD; these testified against them, but they would not give heed.
20 Then the Spirit of God took possession of Zechari'ah the son of Jehoi'ada the priest; and he stood above the people, and said to them, "Thus says God, `Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.'"
21 But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.
22 Thus Jo'ash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoi'ada, Zechari'ah's father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, "May the LORD see and avenge!"
23 At the end of the year the army of the Syrians came up against Jo'ash. They came to Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people from among the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus.
24 Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the LORD delivered into their hand a very great army, because they had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. Thus they executed judgment on Jo'ash.
25 When they had departed from him, leaving him severely wounded, his servants conspired against him because of the blood of the son of Jehoi'ada the priest, and slew him on his bed. So he died; and they buried him in the city of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 89:4-5, 29-34

3 Thou hast said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant:
4 `I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'" [Selah]
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances,
31 if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges;
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.

Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?'
32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Pa. court indefinitely blocks release of clergy sex abuse report

Harrisburg, Pa., Jun 22, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The release of a Grand Jury report detailing cases of clerical sex abuse in six of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania has been blocked by the state’s Supreme Court for unspecified reasons.

The court released the unsigned order June 20, but did not state which individuals or groups had applied for the stay or the reason behind the application. It also does not state for how long the stay applies or when the report could be published in the future.

“And now, this 20th day of June, 2018, the Applications for Stay are granted. The Honorable Norman A. Krumenacker, III, and the Office of the Attorney General are enjoined from releasing Report No. 1 of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury pending further order of this Court,” the order, issued by the state’s Supreme Court, reads. Krumenacker is a Cambria County judge who has overseen the Grand Jury proceedings.

The stay indefinitely delays the release of a report that has been more than two years in the making, during which time victims of past abuse have recounted incidents of sexual abuse to the jury. Legal experts have told local news sources that the depth and breadth of this investigation is almost unprecedented among clerical sex abuse investigations that have taken place in the United States.

The two non-participating dioceses in the report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, have already undergone similar investigations.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has headed the investigation, said in a May 21 statement that he believed dioceses and bishops were behind the push to block or delay the publication of the report.

However, the participating dioceses - Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Scranton - and their bishops have all said that they did not apply for the stay, and that they support the publication of the report.

“We anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision on this matter, and support the release of the report which will give victims a voice,” Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie said in a statement. “Until the report is released, we will continue our efforts to identify abusers and provide counseling and assistance to victims.”

“The contents of the report will be painful, but it is necessary for the report to be released in order for us to learn from it and to continue in our efforts to be responsive to victims and to create safe environments for our children,” the Diocese of Scranton said in its statement. “With regards to the stay, it's important that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court take all the steps it deems necessary.”

“The Diocese of Harrisburg has fully cooperated with the Office of the Attorney General. The Diocese and Bishop Gainer strongly support the release of the Grand Jury report and have not filed anything to cause the stay ordered (Wednesday),” spokesman Mike Barley said in a statement. “However, as we have stated before, it is critical that this report is accurate.”

Diocesan officials told CNA that they were unaware whether those who had applied for the stay had ties to the Church.

Ed Palattella, a reporter for the Erie Times, wrote that it is believed that those who filed for the stay petition were not diocesan officials, but others who were named in the report.

Because the majority of those named in the report would be priests, it is likely that a priest or group of priests named in the report filed for the stay.

According to an order from Krumenacker written earlier this month, anyone who is named in the Grand Jury report is given notice of their inclusion in the report and is allowed to file a rebuttal. However, once approved by a Grand Jury, written reports cannot be amended. All documents regarding the report remain sealed and so the identity of the party or parties who filed for the stay cannot be confirmed.

Victims said that the delay of the release of the report is causing further harm to those who have experienced clerical sex abuse.

State representative Mark Rozzi told The Inquirer that the stay order was a “travesty of justice and insult to all victims of childhood sex abuse.”

“It’s just like it’s been since Day One with me, kick us to the curb. Let the trash on the curb get old, maybe we’ll rot and die and go away. We’re not going away. I’m not going away, and I can promise that to all the victims across the commonwealth,” he said.

Last month, Krumenacker rejected an attempt by defense lawyers to stall the publication of the report. Defense lawyers said that the state’s interest in protecting their unidentified clients’ reputation and due process were enough to halt the publication of the report.

Krumenacker dismissed the request, arguing that “The commonwealth’s interest in protecting children from sexual predators and persons or institutions that enable them to continue their abuse is of the highest order.”

The request was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which ordered the stay June 20.

During trial, former Vatican diplomat admits viewing child pornography

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At the start of his Vatican City trial Friday, Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, a former diplomat for the Holy See, admitted to charges of the possession and distribution of child pornography while working in the U.S.

Capella, 51, a former Vatican diplomat, was recalled from the U.S. nunciature in Washington, D.C. last September after the U.S. State Department notified the Vatican of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a diplomat.

The first hearing in the civil trial was held the afternoon of June 22. Present alongside Capella were his psychologist, Tommaso Parisi; the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, Roberto Zannotti; and judges Giuseppe Della Torre, Venerando Marano, and Carlo Bonzano.

In his testimony, Capella outlined the history of his diplomatic service to the Holy See and admitted his guilt, saying his crimes were the result of a “personal crisis” stemming from his transfer to Washington D.C.

Originally from Capri, Capella was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milan and in 1993 was asked by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini to enter the diplomatic service of the Holy See.

In 2004, after studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he was sent to the apostolic nunciature in India, and three years later, in 2007, was transferred to the nunciature in Hong Kong.

Capella was then transferred back too the Vatican in 2011, and worked in the Secretariat of State's office for Relations with the States.

In his testimony, Capella said he was happy there and enjoyed his work, and that prior to his time in Washington D.C., he had never viewed pornography or expressed interest in that type of content. But when he received a call June 30, 2016, asking him to move to D.C., Capella said he was unhappy with the move, but did not say anything.

“Unfortunately out of respect to the hierarchy, out of the sense of duty, I did not create problems. Instead of making my discomfort known to them, I thanked them for the transfer,” he said during the trial.

After arriving to the U.S., Capella said he had no enthusiasm for his work. The first four months, he said, were “bland,” and he felt “empty” and “useless.”

Problems began to arise, Capella said, when he started looking for funny memes and pictures of animals online to relieve his boredom. Referring to the use of pornography, he said “this kind of morbidness was never part of my priestly life” before this time of desolation.

When questioned by the Vatican's prosecutor and lead judge about how this boredom led to the use of child pornography, Capella said he had started to use the micro-blogging site Tumblr July 23, 2016, to find the amusing images, which led to a slow slide into pornographic images.

This eventually turned into child porn, Capella said, explaining that he began using Tumblr's chat function to exchange images, and had “vulgar” conversations with other unmarried persons.

The U.S. State department flagged Capella's activity and informed the Vatican of a possible violation Aug. 21, 2017.

In September of that year, Canada issued a nationwide arrest warrant for the priest, who was then recalled to the Vatican. Police in Ontario said he had accessed, possessed, and distributed child pornography while visiting Windsor over the 2016 Christmas holiday.

Msgr. Capella has been held in a Vatican jail cell since April 9, 2018, and was indicted by the Holy See June 9.

In his own testimony during the hearing, Parisi said he met Capella after the priest had come back to the Vatican in October 2017, and that the priest had specifically asked for his services.

Capella had trouble sleeping when he first came back, Parisi said, explaining that he prescribed medication to help the priest sleep. The two have held counseling session twice a week since the priest came back to Rome.

According to Parisi, Capella is “aware of his role” in the crimes he committed, and has admitted his errors.

Gianluca Gauzzi, a computer engineer who works for the Vatican Gendarme, said that during the investigation he looked through three cell phones, two USB drives, and several hard drives.

In addition to the images he found on these, Gauzzi said he found additional images on a cloud storage which had been deleted from other devices, totaling in 40-55 images in all.

Gauzzi said he divided the images into two primary categories, one for images from Japanese comics, and the other for images of children aged 14-17. At least one video showed a child depicted in an explicit sex act with an adult.

The images, Gauzzi said, had been exchanged in chats.

Capella's trial will resume the morning of June 23.

'Not one more death' - Nicaraguan bishops appeal for peace

Masaya, Nicaragua, Jun 22, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Amid continued unrest in Nicaragua, Church leaders traveled to the city of Masaya Thursday to pray and appeal for peace.

Protests began April 18 after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

More than 200 in the country have been killed in the violence, according to estimates.

On June 19, government-linked paramilitary groups entered Masaya, clashing with protesters. Six people were killed and 35 wounded. Masaya is one of the cities in the west of the country which has shown resistance to the paramilitaries and pushed for Ortega to be removed from office.

With reports of government forces surrounding Masaya again on Thursday, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, Bishop Silvio José Báez and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag traveled to the city in hopes of mediating the situation there and calling for an end to the violence.

Bishop Báez, who was born in Masaya, led a procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets filled with hundreds of people, some crying and on their knees. When they arrived at San Sebastián church in the Monimbó neighborhood, he spoke to the crowds, voicing solidarity and grief.

The bishop called Masaya a “martyred” city and compared it to “Jesus crucified,” according to the Managua archdiocese’s Facebook page. He said that like Jesus, the city will rise again.

Bishop Báez said that as they were walking through the city streets, he heard cries for justice but reminded the people that justice is not vengeance.

“Here at the church of San Sebastián I want to remind [everyone] of one of the commandments of God: ‘Thou shalt not kill’.”

The bishop then appealed to “those who came to the city to kill… not one more death in Masaya.”

Archbishop Sommertag echoed the call for peace.

“We cannot respond to violence with…more violence, because remember that any death here is an outrage to God, that is why you have to become aware, it's a call to everyone to be responsible for your actions small or great.”

In a follow-up to the day's events, the Archdiocese of Managua posted on Facebook that Cardinal Brenes spoke for an hour with the police commissioner, who “committed to stop the attacks.”

The cardinal and the nuncio asked for the release of all those who had been arrested, presenting a list of detainees, and the police commissioner agreed to release them.

 

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Give space peace a chance, Holy See says

Vienna, Austria, Jun 22, 2018 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- After U.S. President Donald Trump called Monday for a new military branch referred to as the “space force,” the Holy See has encouraged a unified, peaceful approach to space exploration.

“The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” said Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.

“The potential for development through space technology is immense and that the best way to make use of this potential is through international cooperation,” he said, in a June 21 statement to United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Brother Guy is also the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and led the Holy See’s Delegation at UNISPACE+50, a conference which took place at the Vienna International Centre in Austria from June 18-21.

UNOOSA described the purpose of the symposium as to “consider the future course of global space cooperation for the benefit of humankind.”

The conference occurred shortly after President Trump directed Pentagon officials to move toward establishing a “space force” in support of national security. He said the branch presence would create jobs and that the regulation of space traffic management should not fall to other countries.

"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he announced at a June 18 meeting of the National Space Council.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

“There’s no place like space,” Trump added.

The sixth branch of military would have to be approved by U.S. Congress before it was established. President Trump also challenged rich Americans to pursue private, commercial space industry on U.S. soil.

Brother Consolmagno encouraged a different approach to space study and exploration. “The Holy See wishes to stress the importance of ensuring that outer space remains peaceful and that all outer space activities and efforts protect and promote this goal,” he said in remarks at the conference.

“It would be a most dangerous and alarming development, and one that could impact every single man and woman on Earth, if outer space were to become another theatre of armed conflict, just as the land, sea and air before it.”

“When the Earth is viewed from space, the atmosphere is the only border that matters, he said. “In seeing the Earth from space, we realize that our own borders are insignificant in comparison. The Earth’s atmosphere is a global environment that needs to be protected by a global vision of this limited, shared natural resource and must be utilized for the benefit of all humankind,” he added.

Consolmagno said the benefits of space exploration, and the data from space research, should be publicly available. Space travel, he continued, should be made more affordable, and viewed as a benefit to mankind and the planet.

“We need to reflect on how we can transform the space economy from one of very expensive space services and products available to a few, to one that harnesses the abundance of space-derived data and services for the good of all, creating opportunities to engage more actors and opening up new markets for space-derived data and services to meet the needs of the poor in a financially sustainable way.”

Murdered nuns' opposition to death penalty leads to life in prison for killer

Jackson, Miss., Jun 22, 2018 / 12:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A man convicted of the 2016 slayings of two religious sisters in Mississippi will not receive the death penalty and will instead spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Rodney Earl Sanders, 48, pled guilty on Thursday to murdering Sr. Margaret Held, SSSF, and Sr. Paula Merrill, SCN, as well as the theft of Held’s car. The two were found stabbed to death and sexually assaulted at their home in Durant, Mississippi, on August 25, 2016. They worked as nurse practitioners at a medical clinic near their home. Their bodies were discovered after they failed to arrive to work.

Sanders did not give a motive for his crimes. At the time of the murders, he was living in a shed across the street from the sisters’ home. He was arrested and charged the day after the crime. Police said he was a person of interest from the beginning of the investigation.

Held was a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, which is based in Milwaukee, and Merrill was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, from Kentucky.

While Sanders was indicted for the sexual assaults, those charges were not included in his guilty plea, according to the Associated Press. Sanders was eligible for the death penalty, but was sentenced to life in prison after the judge took into account the fact that Held and Merrill were opposed to the death penalty and would not want their killer executed.

In a statement at Sanders’ plea hearing, Sister Susan Gatz, president of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, said that the two sisters were “two of the most gentle persons you could ever know,” who based their lives on “peace, justice, and the love of God.”

Gatz said the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were in favor of the plea agreement as it took away the possibility of the death penalty for Sanders.

“We have longed for justice with regard to our two beloved sisters,” she said. “And so, we support this plea agreement for life in prison without parole. It is justice that recognizes all life is valuable. It is justice that holds out hope, always, that love can break through the hardest barriers.”

Speaking directly to Sanders, Gatz said that her congregation would “never forget what you did to them,” and that many people had suffered as a result of his actions.

“But, because we believe in Christ and his gospel, we forgive you. We have learned over these couple of years that your life has had much turmoil and pain. We want you to know that we will pray that you can find peace.”

Held and Merrill were “examples of goodness, examples of Christ-like love,” said Gatz, “and nothing and no one can ever take that away.”

Des Moines diocese defends legality of school grants

Des Moines, Iowa, Jun 22, 2018 / 10:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After reviewing $844,000 worth of grants that were given by Polk County, Iowa to local Catholic schools a few years back, the Diocese of Des Moines said that it believes the grants complied with state law.

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines has concluded that there is nothing improper associated with the technology grant,” the diocese said in a June 21 statement.

It added that after reviewing the relevant facts and law involving the Polk County grant, “We agree completely with Polk County that the Community Development Grant was entirely legal and proper.”

Iowa state law says that government officials “shall not appropriate, give, or loan public funds to, or in favor of, an institution, school, association or object which is under ecclesiastical or sectarian management or control.”

In 2011, after the Polk County Board of Supervisors learned that it could not give grant money directly to church-affiliated schools, Catholic school supporters formed a separate corporation through which to route the grant money.

Called Education for the 21st Century, the corporation is now defunct. During its two years in operation, 100 percent of its reported revenue came from Polk County grants, according to the Des Moines Register.

The grant money was taken from gambling revenue accrued by the Prairie Meadows Casino and Hotel.

The Polk County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 in 2012 to give $400,000 to the corporation. The year after, the board approved $444,000 to the corporation.

With the money, new technology equipment was bought for St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Augustin, St. Pius X, St. Theresa, Christ the King, Holy Trinity, Holy Family, and Sacred Heart schools. The money was used to purchase iPads, cameras, computers, projectors, and whiteboards.

“If Iowa taxpayer money was, in fact, intentionally funneled to religious schools, that is unacceptable and a misuse of the taxpayers' public dollars,” said Mark Stringer, executive director of ACLU Iowa, according to the Des Moines Register.

However, county supervisors have defended financial assistance to Catholic schools. They say that going forward, such assistance can be given directly to the schools, thanks to a 2017 Supreme Court ruling which held that states cannot discriminate against religious schools by making them ineligible for non-religious amenity funding programs.

The Diocese of Des Moines stressed that the Catholic Church “did not manage or control the foundation that received the grant,” and that grant money was not used for religious purposes, but “for purchasing learning technology that was provided to Christian and parochial schools.”

The diocese noted that Catholic schools already receive state funding for transportation and textbooks, “in recognition of the fact that families choosing a religious education are taxpayers.”

“Providing this form of support that does not directly advance religion is entirely consistent with the law,” the diocese said. “In fact, as the US Supreme Court has recognized, a law or policy that expressly discriminates against an otherwise eligible recipient and disqualifies them from a public benefit because of their religious character, is a clear violation of the United States Constitution.”

The former legal advisor for Polk County’s School Board, Michael O’Meara, told the Des Moines Register that he had told the board that they could only support Catholic schools if they did so via an entity that was not under ecclesiastical control.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman said she will not review the case. Her chief of staff and legal counsel noted that the county attorney appeared to have been consulted and approved the grants.
 
 
 

 

Pope Francis: Jerusalem must be protected from political disputes

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2018 / 10:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis stressed Friday the important role the Eastern Catholic Churches play in spreading the Gospel given that many of them are concentrated in the Holy Land, and said Jerusalem in particular should be protected from tensions and political disputes.

“The Oriental Catholic Churches, as living witnesses to their apostolic origins, are called in a special way to protect and pass on a spark of Pentecostal fire,” the pope said according to prepared remarks June 22. “They are called daily to discover anew their own prophetic presence in all those places where they dwell as pilgrims.”

This, he said, begins with Jerusalem, “whose identity and particular vocation needs to be safeguarded beyond different tensions and political disputes.”

Pope Francis spoke at the Vatican's Consistory Hall to members of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches, who are in Rome for their 91st plenary assembly, which this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of their founding.

The organization unites funding agencies from countries worldwide in order to provide services such as houses of worship and study, scholarships, and social and health care facilities to struggling areas.

Christians, though small in number in the area, are primarily called to this task, and must draw strength from the Holy Spirit “for their mission of witness,” he said, adding that in today's context, this mission “is more urgent than ever before.”

Francis then prayed that holy places such as Jerusalem, “where God’s plan was fulfilled in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” would be the birth place of “a renewed spirit of strength to inspire Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East to embrace their special vocation and to offer an account of their faith and their hope.”

He voiced hope that the Eastern Catholic Churches would not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel in settings “that are often even more secularized than in the West, where they come as immigrants or refugees.”

The pope also prayed that they would be welcomed on both a practical and ecclesial level, “as they seek to preserve and enrich the patrimony of their various traditions.”

Thanks to organizations such as ROACO, members of the Eastern Churches, he said, “can bear witness to us, whose hearts are often dulled, that it is still worth living and suffering for the Gospel, even as a minority, or the object of persecution, for the Gospel is the joy and the life of men and women of every age.”

The pope said the organization's landmark anniversary is a testament to the help they have given to Christians throughout the Middle East through the various initiatives they lead.

These projects, he said, allow Eastern Catholic Churches to thrive not only in their native lands, but also in the increasing diaspora, enabling them to continue bearing witness to the Gospel despite being “severely tested” by persecution.

This persecution, he said, has arisen “first by the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe and then, more recently, by forms of allegedly religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, to say nothing of apparently interminable conflicts, especially in the Middle East.”

Solidarity shown by organizations such as ROACO, he said, have helped to ensure the continued existence of the Eastern Churches at risk of extinction, and have allowed these churches to continue spreading the Gospel.

Pope Francis said the work of ROACO has also helped him to continue his mission of “pursuing possible paths to the visible unity of all Christians,” and stressed that Christians who are members of Eastern Churches, though distant, “are no less loved, and certainly not forgotten.”

“With your help,” he said in closing, “they are always listened to and helped to continue their journey as the Church of the Risen Christ, amid every challenge, and every spiritual and material suffering, in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe.”

Francis' comments on Jerusalem come after the United States on May 14 opened an embassy in the city, making the U.S. the only country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since the state was established in 1948.

Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its capital. However, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries but the US have embassies in Tel Aviv. Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, then, was met with fierce backlash not only from international interlocutors, but also by the Vatican.

After Trump announced the change last December, Pope Francis expressed his “deep concern” and issued an appeal to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

Pope Francis also urged the necessity of maintaining the status quo in his meeting with Theophilos III, patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, in October 2017, in which the two discussed the patriarch’s concern for the Christian community amid aggression by Jewish settlers.

“Any kind of violence, discrimination or displays of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim worshipers, or places of worship, must be firmly rejected,” the pope said, adding that “the Holy City, whose status quo must be defended and preserved, ought to be a place where all can live together peaceably; otherwise, the endless spiral of suffering will continue for all.”