Several hundred Jewish protesters have voiced their opposition to plans for Pope Francis to hold mass in a room held sacred by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.
Ahead of the pontiff’s forthcoming visit to Israel, religious groups massed outside the Jerusalem room, known as the Cenacle, which some Orthodox Jews believe to be the burial place of King David.
Organisers say they will protest again later this week, as the rally threatens to steal headlines during what has been plugged as an interfaith mission.
All three faiths have an interest in the Cenacle. Christians believe the room hosted the Last Supper, while Muslims hold it dear because it was the site of a mosque in Ottoman times.
But, while anyone is free to visit, it is the prospect of a religious service being held there has led to some anger, with protesters saying that a mass would contravene an agreement dating back to the British Mandate, which bars religious rituals being held there.
“I have tolerance, I have understanding,” said Rabbi Yitzhak Goldstein, head of a Jewish seminary located at the site. “What I condemn is an aggressive change of the British status quo.”
Despite the protest, the belief that King David is buried at the Centacle is not commonly held, with most researchers saying David was actually buried at the City of David, a nearby archaeological site.