WASHINGTON -- Jerusalem is sacred to the three monotheistic religions and has universal religious significance, according to the Holy See's foreign minister, who today urged U.S. Jewish, Muslim, and Arab leaders to work in helping Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators find a "final status" for Jerusalem which preserves its uniqueness and sacredness.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States, met in Washington today with representatives of major Jewish, Muslim, and Arab organizations in the United States to share with them the Holy See's concerns about the ongoing Middle East peace negotiations, and to urge all parties interested in Jerusalem's future to work together.
Jewish leaders meeting with Archbishop Tauran represented the American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith International, Anti-Defamation League, National Council of Synagogues, National Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations/Rabbinical Council of America. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, the episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, hosted the meeting.
At a meeting later this afternoon, Archbishop Tauran discussed the same issues with American Muslim and Arab-American officials and scholars and representatives of various organizations concerned about Middle East issues. Among the U.S. Muslim organizations represented were the American Muslim Council, American Muslim Foundation, Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Educational Council, and Muslim Public Affairs Council. Also present were representatives of the Arab American Institute, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, the American Committee on Jerusalem, and Churches for Middle East Peace. Hosting this meeting was the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Scholars affiliated with Georgetown University were also present.
For some years, the Holy See has sought a "special statute" for the ancient core of Jerusalem and its attendant holy places which would preserve the unique religious character of the Holy City and secure the rights of the religious communities there. As envisioned, such a special statute would:
- preserve, restore, and safeguard the physical, cultural, and historical attributes of the city.
- assure equality of rights and services for all residents of the city.
- guarantee the freedom of the religious communities to carry out the full range of their activities.
- afford protection to the holy places and freedom of access to all, residents and pilgrims alike, including local pilgrims from anywhere in the Holy Land.
Tomorrow, Archbishop Tauran will breakfast with a number of Members of Congress before meeting privately with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). Tuesday afternoon, he will deliver a major public address, titled "The Holy See and the Middle East," at 3:00 p.m., in the Byron Auditorium, at The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law. At that time, he will also receive CUA's President's Medal. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet privately with Administration officials, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
A native of France, Archbishop Tauran joined the Holy See's diplomatic corps in 1975. His diplomatic assignments were to apostolic nunciatures in the Dominican Republic (1975-78) and Lebanon (1979-1983), and at the Vatican's Council for the Public Affairs of the Church (1983-1988). In 1988, he was designated as Under-Secretary of the Council for Public Affairs of the Church (now the Secretariat of State's Section for Relations with States), a post he held until the appointment to his current post on October 1, 1990.
Archbishop Tauran's visit is being hosted by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/U.S. Catholic Conference.