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Example grave church

Old City of Jerusalem with Church of the Holy Sepulchre © Thomas Lohnes

Pope Francis has demanded respect for the traditional rights of the various religious communities in Jerusalem. The so-called status quo must be "defended and preserved," the pope said at the Vatican.

There he met this Monday at an audience with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III. of Jerusalem together. The ins 18. The agreement, which dates back to the 16th century, regulates ownership of the holy sites of Christians, Muslims and Jews, but also the division of the old city into residential quarters for individual religious communities.

Ongoing restriction of fundamental rights

The current "uncertainty" of the situation is the cause of insecurity, a continuing restriction of fundamental rights and the emigration of many from their home country, the Pope said.

A lasting peace, he said, must be "founded on justice and the recognition of the rights of all". Francis also opposed "any form of violence, any kind of discrimination and any manifestation of intolerance against Jewish, Christian and Muslim persons or places of worship".

Increased cooperation among churches

He called on the various churches to work together more closely. As a positive example, he cited the joint restoration of Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher by the Greek Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches, each of which holds ownership rights to this holiest site in Christendom.

In addition, the Pope reiterated the desire for Christian unity. Without forgetting the lack of love in past centuries, he said, it is now necessary to work for reconciliation. "Not to do so would be the most serious fault today," said the Pope.

Monday's meeting at the Vatican was the third between Francis and Theophilos III, who has been in office since 2005. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate faces criticism over real estate sales to Israeli investors.

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