Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has echoed Pope Francis’ call for the “Status Quo” agreement over religious sites in Jerusalem to be protected. After meeting the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, at Lambeth Palace last week, Welby said: “I join other church leaders in calling for all parties to uphold the Status Quo and resist weakening it. I believe that a continued Christian presence in the Holy Land is of paramount importance.”
The Patriarch has spent recent weeks visiting religious leaders around the world to call for support for the Status Quo, which protects religious communities’ ownership of land in Jerusalem. A bill before the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, which would restrict the right of churches to deal independently with their land has been signed by 40 Knesset members.
In re-stating his support for Christian communities throughout Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and across the Middle East, Welby asserted that Jerusalem must remain a place where people of all faiths can live and thrive together. He had visited the region in May.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s words echo those of Pope Francis, who, after met Patriarch Theophilus III in October, said: “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.”
Welby praised the close relationships that exist among the heads of churches in Jerusalem, especially between the Patriarch and Archbishop Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s meeting with Patriarch Theophilus III ended with prayer in the Crypt Chapel at Lambeth Palace, concluding with the words of Psalm 122, which implores prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.