Man who holds keys to holy Christian site in Jerusalem will refuse to welcome Pence

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The official custodian in charge of the keys to one of the most sacred sites in Christianity will not welcome Vice President Pence when he visits the Old City of Jerusalem this month. 

“It has come to our attention that Vice President Pence intends to make an official visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and asked me to receive him officially,” Adeeb Joudeh, who is responsible for the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, wrote in a letter on Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News. 

“I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and I will not be physically in church during his visit,” he continued. 


“This is an expression of my condemnation of President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and is said to contain the sites where Jesus Christ was crucified and where Christians believe he was buried and resurrected. 

Officials from the church have downplayed the importance of Joudeh’s letter. 

“We didn’t receive any formal or informal request and if there is a request, there is a status quo procedure to respect involving the three communities. Anyway it is not up to one of the key keepers to decide anything about this kind of issue,” a church official said, according to The Times of Israel. 

A senior church official told the publication that no visit had been planned. 

Pence, who was raised Roman Catholic and now identifies as an evangelical Christian, is set to travel throughout the region this month seeking an “end to the persecution of Christians and all religious minorities.” 

However, a prominent Christian group in the region has signaled they will not welcome Pence on his official visit in the wake of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. 

The leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christian Church said last week he will not meet with Pence, saying Trump’s decision came “at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people.”

A group of Christian churches in Jerusalem also penned a letter to President Trump urging him not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital, prior to his announcement last week. 

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin plans to move the U.S. embassy there has sparked unrest in the region. 

While Israel views Jerusalem as its capital, Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. 

The international community largely recognizes Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.  

Trump’s decision also broke with decades of U.S. policy that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

This story was updated at 1:43 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Mike Pence

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