The Muslim man who currently holds the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has vowed not to welcome U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the holy site and has also called on church leaders not to receive the American official.
In a letter written in Arabic, Adeeb Jowdeh al-Husseini said he "refuses completely to receive United States Vice President Pence in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre." This is his way of opposing U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Times of Israel detailed.
However, officials of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre dismissed Jowdeh's letter on Dec. 13, saying the keyholder was not an official of the Christian holy site. They added that there was still no plan for Pence to visit the church.
"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," one church official said. "Anyway it is not up to one of the key keepers to decide anything about this kind of issue."
Meanwhile, an official in Israel's parliament told i24NEWS that Pence has pushed his trip to Israel back by several days. Some reports say the delay was because of the Congressional votes on tax reform, but the Haaretz daily's sources said it was due to an "ongoing Jerusalem crisis."
While the new schedule for the trip to Israel has not yet been made public, a Knesset representative told the publication that he is set to arrive by Dec. 19 or 20.
Aside from visiting Israel, Pence will also go to Egypt and the Palestinian territory. It is worth noting that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had previously announced that Pence will not be welcome there after Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The White House, on the other hand, warned that cancelling the meeting between Abbas and Pence would be "counterproductive."