The Vatican has reaffirmed its position that Jerusalem should be an international holy city for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Both before and during a visit to Israel this week, the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, said the Vatican had not changed its position on the city.
Although the reaffirmation of the Vatican position was tied to Tauran’s trip, it also appeared to be a response to a report by Leah Rabin that Pope John Paul II had told her he considered Jerusalem as “the capital of Israel and as the capital of three faiths.”
Leah Rabin, the window of the slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and their two children had a private audience last week with the pontiff.
The reference to Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state – though not an official recognition – would mark a sharp change in official Vatican policy, which does not recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
Vatican spokesman Joacquin Navarro-Valls later attempted to downplay the significance of the remark. “The position of the Holy See has been known for years,” he said. Navarro’s statement, however, did not refer to Rabin or her report of what the pope told her.
At the meeting with Rabin, the pope also repeated his intention to visit Jerusalem, but no date was mentioned.
Tauran said while he was in Israel that if the pontiff visited, it would be as a pilgrim.
In Israel, Tauran met with Israeli religious and political figures, including Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert.
The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations last year.