Muslim custodian family of Church of Sepulcher refuse to welcome US VP Pence
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The al-Husseini family, who keep the keys to the doors of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, have rejected United States Vice President Mike Pence, who is known as U.S. President Donald Trump’s greatest supporter in his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News on Dec. 13, Adeeb Jawaad Joudeh al-Husseini said the U.S. Embassy in Israel had asked him to welcome Pence with VIP protocol at the church when he visits Jerusalem on the weekend.
Anyone can visit the church but “I absolutely refuse to welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence,” said al-Husseini in a letter to U.S. officials in Tel Aviv on Dec. 9.
“According to VIP protocol, I have to meet Pence outside the church doors and present him with the keys. I refuse to accept him in the church,” he said.
“Jerusalem already has many problems. We did not need a new one,” said al-Husseini, citing Trump’s decision.
“We hope President Erdoğan will contribute to peace building in our country,” said al-Husseini, who came to Ankara and met with the president’s son Bilal Erdoğan and other government officials on Dec. 13.
Two Muslim families are in charge of the church, which is shared for Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox worship. The custodian of the keys is the Muslim al-Husseini family. The Muslim Nuseibeh family is responsible for helping open and close the doors of the church.
Since the Ayyubid dynasty founded by Saladin, Muslim custodians lock the doors and open them every day with the help of Christian religious representatives who carry the ladder.
Al-Husseini said the keys of the church were handed over in 1187 by Saladin to his family who were the “nobles of al-Aqsa.”
In the past, due to the “destruction of the church by sultans,” Saladin provided the keys to his family, who claim to be from the line of the Prophet Muhammad, so no one would dare harm the church, he said.