Church of England, British Catholic Church oppose moving UK embassy to Jerusalem

Archbishop of Westminster Cardent Vincent Nichols (Roman Catholic) and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Wellby (Church of England) have come out against relocating the British Embassy to Jerusalem.

 LEFT: Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vince Nichols. RIGHT: Head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby  (photo credit: FLICKR, YUI MOK/POOL VIA REUTERS)
LEFT: Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vince Nichols. RIGHT: Head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
(photo credit: FLICKR, YUI MOK/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Two of the UK's most senior Christian authorities have recently come out against the potential decision of Prime Minister Liz Truss to move the British Embassy to the State of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In a letter sent to the prime minister, one of the UK's leading Roman Catholic Church authorities, Archbishop of Westminster Cardent Vincent Nichols has called on Truss to not move the British Embassy to the State of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"A relocation of the UK Embassy would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom."

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Cardinal Nichols, who serves as the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales wrote a letter to Prime Minister Truss earlier this week, expressing his "profound concern" over her call for a review of the location of the British Embassy and the suggestion that she may consider moving it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In a statement shared both on his official website as well as on his Twitter account, the Cardinal stated that "such a relocation of the UK Embassy would be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region and to the international reputation of the United Kingdom."

 Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid exchange documents after signing a memorandum of understanding at Britain's Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London, Britain, November 29, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY) Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid exchange documents after signing a memorandum of understanding at Britain's Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office in London, Britain, November 29, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/HANNAH MCKAY)

Nichols cited his connection to the Catholic Church as the reason for his opposition to the idea, saying that "Pope Francis and the leaders of churches in the Holy Land have long called for the international status quo on Jerusalem to be upheld, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. The city must be shared as a common patrimony, never becoming an exclusive monopoly of any party."

Concluding his statement, the Cardinal said that he "can see no valid reason why a move needs now to be considered," adding that he asks the Prime Minister to "earnestly reconsider the intention she has expressed and to focus all efforts on seeking a two-state solution, in which Jerusalem would have a guaranteed special status.

Responses to Cardinal Nichols' statement

Responding to the Cardinal's statement on Twitter, American-based organization Stop Antisemitism mentioned the history of the Catholic Church saying: "The Catholic Church did enough during WW2. Your input and opinions are not needed - today or EVER. Perhaps you can instead spend your time giving back the countless Jewish artifacts stolen from Jewish families during the Holocaust that you refuse to give back."

Also bringing up the beliefs of the Catholic Church in his response, International Human Rights Lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky tagged Nichols, saying: "Dear Cardinal, I suggest you read over scriptures, what they say about Jerusalem. You might then care to reconsider your opinion."

The Israel-Britain Alliance also issued a statement regarding his comments, saying that while they have "respect for all clergy, interventions like this reveal a fundamental political naivety. Sovereign states naming their own capital is normal. When did normal become a bad idea?"

Archbishop of Canterbury echoes concerns

“The Archbishop is concerned about the potential impact of moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached."

Spokesperson for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Following Cardinal Nichols' lead, the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has expressed his concerns over the potential move, with his spokesperson addressing the subject in a statement to UK Jewish newspaper The Jewish News on Friday. 

“The Archbishop is concerned about the potential impact of moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis has been reached," read the statement. "He is in touch with Christian leaders in the Holy Land and continues to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Will Truss move the British Embassy to Jerusalem?

During her election campaign back in August of this year, Truss told the Conservative Friends of Israel group that, should she be elected prime minister, she would consider moving the embassy to Jerusalem, following the lead set by former US president Donald Trump. Then, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, she again mentioned her commitment to the idea, telling Prime Minister Yair Lapid that she is reviewing the current location of the embassy. 

 The Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, hangs at half-mast at the entrance to the British embassy in Tel Aviv on September 9, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) The Union Jack, the national flag of the United Kingdom, hangs at half-mast at the entrance to the British embassy in Tel Aviv on September 9, 2022 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

The idea was again brought up last week, although this time not by Truss herself, when the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl told a Conservative Friends of Israel reception that "we are really hopeful that the government is going to move the embassy, like America, to Jerusalem – the capital of Israel.”

Although Truss herself made no mention of the possibility at the event, she did say that she was a "huge Zionist and huge supporter of Israel," adding that she would "take the UK-Israel relationship from strength to strength."