Officials at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Wednesday dismissed the significance of a letter written by the site’s Muslim keyholder in which he vowed not to welcome U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as irrelevant, the Times of Israel reports.
According to the Holy Sepulchre, the man is not an official of the church and does not represent it. A spokeswoman for Pence, who is due to visit next week, said the vice president has not reached out to plan a visit to the church at this stage, and a church official said no visit had yet been planned.
Adeeb Jowdeh al-Husseini, the Custodian of the Keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, wrote in an Arabic statement this week that he “refuses completely to receive United States Vice President Pence in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”
Husseini further said he would not be present when Pence visits the church, and called on church leaders of the different denominations not to receive Pence.
However, no church visit is planned and Husseini does not represent the church, officials said. Pence’s press secretary Alyssa Farah wrote on Twitter that Pence, who often plays up the role of Christianity in his public life, had never reached out regarding a visit to the holy site. A senior church official also said no visit had been planned, the Times of Israel notes.
“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.He is not an official and represents himself,” the official said.
Husseini is part of a long tradition of Muslim men who inherit the responsibility of opening and closing the Christian holy site in order to keep the status quo between all the different parties at this sensitive sacred spot. “We will say to Trump, it’s not reasonable that one can give something away that doesn’t belong to him to someone that doesn’t deserve it,” Jowdeh al-Husseini said in his statement.