The Muslim “keymaster” of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City announced that he will not welcome US Vice President Mike Pence, while church officials have given no credence to the impromptu boycott.
In a conflict that seems emblematic of the multilayered issues confronting the city of Jerusalem, a Palestinian Muslim whose family has been entrusted with the keys to one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, announced that he will refuse to welcome Vice President Pence when he arrives in the Old City this month.
The church keymaster, Adeeb Joudeh, expressed in a letter on Wednesday that he won’t “officially receive” Pence at the site, Channel 2 reported. “I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I will not be physically in church during his visit,” announced Joudeh.
Joudeh went on to explain that his boycott was intended to communicate his “condemnation of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
While US law had called for the nation’s embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for over two decades, Trump’s recent announcement that the move would actually take place, in addition to his recognition that Jerusalem is in fact Israel’s capital, has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership. In addition to claiming the US would be excluded from helping to negotiate the peace process, Palestinian brass also announced their intent to snub Pence during his visit, which is to focus on exposing the plight of persecuted Christian groups and other minorities in the Middle East.
Notwithstanding the keymaster’s missive, a church spokesman stressed that Joudeh is not a church official and does not represent the institution. “It is not up to one of the key keepers to decide anything about this kind of issue,” said a church official, according to a report by The Times of Israel.
Pence’s spokeswoman denied that any plan existed to visit to the church, which was confirmed by a church official.