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Muslim key-holder at Church of the Holy Sepulchre refuses to welcome Mike Pence

(Reuters/Joshua Roberts)FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives before U.S. President Donald Trump and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speak at a joint statement at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. October 23, 2017.

A Muslim man holding the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has stated that he will not welcome Vice President Mike Pence when he visits Jerusalem's Old City this month.

"I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and I will not be physically in church during his visit," Adeep Joudeh, the custodian of the church, stated in a letter to Israel's Channel 2 News on Wednesday, as reported by Common Dreams.

Joudeh said that his refusal is a way of expressing his condemnation of President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The church, which is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, is considered as one of the world's most sacred Christian sites, and it is believed to contain the site where Jesus Christ was buried.

According to Times of Israel, Pence's visit is due next week, but a spokeswoman for the vice president said that he has no plans to visit a church at this stage.

A senior official at the church also noted that no visit had been planned and dismissed the significance of Joudeh's letter.

"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," the official said.

Two other church officials stressed that Joudeh is not a church official and does not represent the Christian denominations that have a stake in the church.

Joudeh holds the key to the church as part of a long tradition of Muslim men who inherit the responsibility of opening and closing the church in order to keep the status quo between all the different parties at the sacred site.

"We will say to Mr. Trump, it's not reasonable that one can give something away that doesn't belong to him to someone that doesn't deserve it," Joudeh stated in the letter.

Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital ignited protests in Gaza and the West Bank, where Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In Egypt, the leader of the Coptic Christian Church announced last week that he will not meet with Pence, noting that Trump's decision came "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people."

A meeting between Pence and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also canceled following Trump's announcement.

Abbas's diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, stated on Saturday that the meeting between the PA president and Pence was canceled "because the US has crossed red lines" on Jerusalem.

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