2014-05-12 16:17:00

Latin rite Patriarch says hate crimes threatening Pope’s Holy Land visit

May 12, 2014 - The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land on Sunday urged Israel to crack down on vandals behind a spate of hate crimes aimed primarily at Christian and Muslim sites, weeks before Pope Francis visits the region. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said that the vandalism ``poisons the atmosphere of coexistence'' for the May 24-26 papal visit.

Fourteen attacks by suspected far-right Israelis have been reported in the past year. Several have been carried out over the last month. Patriarch Twal asked why the vandals haven't been caught. Churches, mosques, peaceful Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been hit by the vandals. The vandals are widely despised by the vast majority of Israelis and they have been condemned by leaders across the political spectrum. Israeli police are investigating the hate crimes but so far have had little success in stopping them.

The vandals recently have scribbled anti-Arab and anti-Christian graffiti on several Christian holy sites and properties, including an attack last week on the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem.‎ Israel's internal security agency has said it fears there could be similar attacks as the pope's visit approaches. Patriarch Twal drew some encouragement from pledges by Israeli officials, notably Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, to crack down on the vandals. But he added that until Israel's pledges to stop the vandalism "become acts, we remain sceptical."

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.