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Patriarch visits defaced monastery

11 April 2014


THE Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Fouad Twal, is urging the Israeli authorities to apprehend those responsible for spraying anti-Christian and anti-American graffiti on the walls of the Deir Rafat monastery, west of the city.

Speaking during a visit to the monastery, he said: "We, like the nuns, will continue to pray for these sick minds, so that the Lord takes away their ignorance and their narrowness of mind. However, we must not be silent, and we will do everything to ensure that justice is done, and that these vandals and fanatics are prosecuted."

The monastery, which was established in 1927 and has the words "Ave Maria" carved in many languages on its main door, is also a shrine to the Virgin Mary: the Hebrew graffiti disparaged her, as well as Jesus. The anti-American graffiti was critical of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process brokered by the United States. The Israeli police are carrying out an investigation into the desecration of the monastery.

Initial suspicion has fallen on a small fringe group of right-wing settlers who have vandalised Christian property in the past, in protest at what they perceive as their government's conciliatory attitude towards the Palestinians. Their actions have been widely condemned by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The latest vandalism occurred as church and state authorities in the Holy Land were completing preparations for the visit of Pope Francis at the end of May. Patriarch Twal said that his visit to Deir Rafat was designed to show support for the nuns there, and to help them overcome fear.

Expressing his condemnation of the desecration of the monastery "in the strongest terms", the Patriarch said: "This is bad for the state of Israel; it is bad for us; it is bad for everybody. In this Holy Land we do not need these actions - especially these actions against a monastery where we have Sisters just praying for peace. They are not involved in any politics. I don't believe this is a proper way to receive the Holy Father here next month."

Pope Francis will travel to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan during his visit to the Middle East.

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