Visitors at King David's Tomb
Visitors at King David's Tomb Flash 90

The Vatican is not seeking ownership of the Cenacle, or room alleged to be the site of Jesus's Last Supper, one floor above King David's Tomb, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

An official quoted by the newspaper on Tuesday said that the Vatican only sought to hold daily Christian prayers at the site.

"All the Vatican wishes is to hold two hours of [Christian] prayer every day in the early morning before visitors start to visit it," said Monsignor William Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

He added that Christians have prayed at the Cenacle for 10 centuries "because it is said to be the place where Jesus had the Last Supper and where he washed the feet of his 12 disciples. For Christians it is a major holy place."

In the spirit of "interreligious dialogue," he said, "it would be nice to have one holy place where many events are commemorated, and where people of different religions can come to pray."

Jerusalem, he emphasized, "is holy to three religions," according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

But Jewish groups have pointed out that the seemingly innocuous move would have serious consequences for the Jewish presence at the site. Jewish law forbids benefiting from anything - including a structure or shelter - which is used for the purposes of idol-worship. The use of effigies and other rituals practiced by the Catholic church fall under the halakhic definition of idol worship, and thus Jews would be prevented from praying there.

The comments come amid growing reports that the Israeli government has plans to transfer to the Vatican parts of the Compound.

The Minister of Public Security, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi and Israel's Ambassador to the Vatican have all denied the reports, which have claimed that there a secret deal between the Vatican and Israel on the issue.

However, Rabbi Yaakov Sevilia, an activist for King David's Tomb, recently 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.

Pope Francis, who will make his first visit to Israel next week, is planning to hold a mass at the site.