Binyamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis
Binyamin Netanyahu and Pope FrancisFlash 90

Pope Francis is due to arrive in Israel on May 25, but Councilman Aryeh King has made clear that he will not be among the Jerusalem officials welcoming the Catholic leader.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is expected to greet the Pope on Mount Scopus during the visit, and Barkat's office has sent messages to members of the city council inviting them to join in welcoming the Pope.

King, chairman of the "United Jerusalem" faction, responded by mail to Barkat's office and the other council members, declaring that he will not join them.

"I won't come, unless (the Pope) will bring in his suitcase the treasures of the Jewish people that were stolen by his predecessors, treasures that today are located in the Vatican's basement," remarked King.

Several treasures from the destroyed Holy Temple in Jerusalem are believed to have been brought to Rome; indeed the Arch of Titus in Rome, erected shortly after the death of Emperor Titus in 81 CE, clearly depicts Roman soldiers bringing to Rome the golden candelabrum and other Temple artifacts.

The treasures reportedly remained on public display between 75 CE and the early 5th century in the Temple of Peace in Rome's Forum. Jews have requested access to the Vatican's storehouses to ascertain whether the treasures are still there.

The councilman added "without the return of our people's possessions, I see in (the Pope's) visit an unprecedented insolence."

Protecting Jewish possessions and sites

King has likewise been actively opposing the rumored negotiations that would have Israel sell King David's Tomb to the Vatican. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman denied the deal on Tuesday, after hundreds of Jews protested at the site the day before.

Last month, an Israeli diplomatic source told Arutz Sheva that the Israeli government has no intention of transferring control over the site to the Church; those claims were reiterated Sunday, by the office of the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. 

However, Rabbi Yaakov Sevilia, an activist for King David's Tomb, told Arutz Sheva that there is a deal in the works - which would see David's Tomb given to Christians, and the Temple Mount to Muslims. He cited journalist Gulio Meotti, who contributes regularly to Arutz Sheva, as the source for this knowledge.