Anticipation tainted by vandalismThursday, May 22, 2014
Not even pope’s hotel ‘immune from hate crime’
For the Herald
JERUSALEM — The Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem has expressed alarm over threats to Christians that were recently found scrawled on Church property in the Holy Land amid growing anticipation among the region’s Catholics for the papal visit planned for May 24 to 26. Authorities in Israel believe far-right Jewish extremists are behind the attacks.
Anti-Christian graffiti had been found over a week ago on a wall adjacent to a Church in Jerusalem, another in a series of hate crimes aimed at Israel’s Christian minority. The graffiti, which was written in Hebrew, read “Price tag, King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage.”
Even the house where the pope will stay on his visit has not been immune from the wave of vandalism. In another hate-crime attack last week, “Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel” was daubed in Hebrew on an outer column of the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Centre in East Jerusalem.
“This is more than a lack of respect. The people behind things like this need more basic education,” the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Dom Fouad Twal, told the Herald, after another attack on a monastery, located on the route between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The police have said they are investigating the incidences, though few vandalists of this type are known to have been given sentences in Israel in the past.
The Roman Catholic body in charge of the Vatican’s properties in the Holy Land is urging Israeli authorities to safeguard Christian holy sites, following such extensive vandalism on churches and monasteries ahead of Francis’ visit. Israeli Police and the Shin Bet security agency fear the trip might be exploited by right-wing extremists, who could use a possible major hate crime to drum up media attention.
The Argentine-born pontiff is due to visit Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Jerusalem, where one of his most significant meetings will be with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.