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Jerusalem authorities ask Catholics to take down banner welcoming Pope Francis

on 30 Comments
Banner in Jerusalem for Pope's visit,

Banner in Jerusalem for Pope’s visit, photo by Jim Hollander/EPA

Here is some disturbing news from Israel, which calls itself the only democracy in the Middle East. Authorities in Jerusalem have asked Catholics to take down a banner featuring the Pope, lest it spur attacks ahead of the Pope’s visit May 25-26. AFP reports:

Police and the Shin Bet have reportedly been concerned Jewish extremists could increase attacks on Christian sites ahead of the pope’s arrival in an attempt to attract media attention.

In a sign of roiling tensions, Jerusalem police — at the request of municipal officials — asked a Franciscan centre just inside the Old City walls to take down a large banner welcoming Pope Francis in English, Arabic and Hebrew, informed sources said.


The highest western Christian authority in Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, gave a press conference yesterday addressing this and other issues. Haaretz:

In response to questions about images of Pope Francis being displayed in Jerusalem, Twal answered that they were put up just as they are throughout the rest of the world, to welcome the pope during his visit. Twal added that in Israel, it is common to put up pictures of athletes and soccer players when they visit, and asked why then should there be such criticism over pictures of the Pope.

UPI has reported on the rise in “price-tag” attacks by Jews on Christian sites.

The pope’s visit to Jordan and Israel, scheduled for May 24 to 26, comes after attacks of vandalism on Christian sites in Jerusalem, allegedly by far-right Jewish groups. Several Christian churches have been defaced, including a death threat painted in Hebrew on East Jerusalem’s Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center. The site is where the pope is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


At his press conference, Patriarch Twal criticized the official non-response to these attacks:

“It damages, of course, the democracy that Israel purports itself to uphold,” Twal said at a news conference. According to the patriarch, the attacks have been met with only verbal condemnation from Israeli leaders and very few arrests. “All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” said Twal.

“Currently, the acts of unrestrained vandalism are poisoning the atmosphere, an atmosphere of coexistence, cooperation, especially now, two weeks before the visit of Pope Francis,” he continued.

The Economist reports that Israeli authorities are turning Christian holy sites into a “military base” so as to secure the visit; but this policy could make Jerusalem a ghost town, and drive a wedge between Francis and his massive following.

WILL Jerusalem’s bustling Old City be turned into a ghost town when Pope Francis comes to the Holy Land on May 25th? That is what worries some of his officials. While the Palestinians are opening up the streets of Bethlehem and providing the pope with an open car when he visits their side of the biblical land, Israel is taking no chances. It is planning a strict permit regime, insisting that the Holy Father travels in an armoured car, with the public kept at arm’s length behind a security cordon. 

The Patriarch also had this comment on the intolerance of Israel’s new demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state:

[T]he patriarch also called into the question the move by the government to pass a law making Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. “It can be said that dealing with this sad affair is not only restricted to the realm of law and order. A pressing question rises over how we educate our children, what do they learn about those who are different from them in terms of religion and ethnic and national identity? What effect is created by official discourse on Israel being a state for one group only?” he said.


Ultra Orthodox Jewish men protest against Pope-Francis-upcoming-visit-to-the-Holy-Land-on-May-12-2014-in-the-Old-City-of-Jerusalem-AFP

Ultra Orthodox Jewish men protest against Pope-Francis-upcoming-visit-to-the-Holy-Land-on-May-12-2014-in-the-Old-City-of-Jerusalem-AFP

More signs of intolerance. Agence French-Presse reports on a demonstration by the Orthodox ahead of the Pope’s visit, aimed at the “Cenacle,” a place alongside the Old City walls Jews believe is the site of King David’s Tomb, but that Christians regard as the site of the Last Supper.

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Monday near the reputed scene of Jesus’s last supper in Jerusalem demanding that Israel keep sovereignty over the site where Pope Francis will celebrate mass….

“When ‘the crusaders’ come here making the sign of the cross and all kinds of rituals, this place will become idolatrous for us, and we will not have the right to pray there any more,” ultra-Orthodox Jewish protester Yitzhak Batzon told AFP.

Ultra-Orthodox protesters are planning another demonstration there on May 22 — just three days before the pope is due to arrive in Jerusalem.


Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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30 Responses

  1. amigo on May 14, 2014, 11:40 am

    Where did the 29 comments disappear to??.

    They are not showing up.

    • annie on May 14, 2014, 12:27 pm

      i have no idea amigo. after writing phil and adam… this is a mystery. we just heard about it! but we’re looking into it and hopefully they can be restored. stay tuned.

      hopefully it’s limited to this thread. yikes!

      • amigo on May 14, 2014, 12:50 pm

        “this is a mystery.” Annie.

        Reminds me of the Warden in Shawshank when they discover Andy Dupree is gone.

        “It,s a mystery.He just upped and vanished like a fart in the wind.”

      • annie on May 14, 2014, 8:13 pm

        lol! well you can email adam, i am not the warden around here and i have no idea where the comments went. i just did a search of trashed comments that goes back 5 days and not a one is from this thread.

        there have been incidences where, when updating, the text has been lost (gone, blank page) and it is fixable by going back to one of the revision pages and updating. but the revisions do not include comments so i have no idea.

        last night when i got home i updated the main post by capitalizing “Last Supper”, that is all i know. perhaps by some fluke it dropped the comments on the save. sorry! write adam. but he says he doesn’t know.

      • amigo on May 15, 2014, 5:22 am

        “lol! well you can email adam, i am not the warden around here and i have no idea where the comments went. i just did a search of trashed comments that goes back 5 days and not a one is from this thread.”Annie.

        Annie, I was not being serious.I was trying to put a humorous slant to the “Mystery”.

        Besides, you would never make it as a warden.You lack the necessary attributes.That,s a compliment,btw.

        We all appreciate your huge efforts here.

      • Walid on May 15, 2014, 9:35 am

        Amigo, nothing super mysterious about this; one of the site administrators most probably inadvertently hit the “delete” button on all the thread’s posts. Had there been a black hand behind this, the whole thread would have been deleted or the site taken down. Nobody wants to take credit for this innocent boner.

      • lysias on May 15, 2014, 10:15 am

        Maybe the site administrators will learn from this the importance of always creating backups.

      • annie on May 15, 2014, 3:03 pm

        no worries amigo! it’s probably a job for the sites tech guru and i’m not sure the site wants to invest in sending him on a comment chase.

        lysias, i know we do backup the main posts (they are in the revisions) but i don’t know about the threads as they are developing or once they are closed.

        as an aside, if i had my druthers there are a lot of things i would want the tech person to restore, like the share totals and those green tabs. but we switched servers or tech people or whatever it is called about a year ago, and i’m not sure those things are included in the new package. i am probably the least techie person around and have no idea what it entails to make those things function or what reasons we have for ending them.

  2. Walid on May 14, 2014, 12:01 pm

    Where did the 29 posts go?

    I wanted to add to the translation cited by tree from the robotic translator. One police officer told the church people to take down the sign because it was offending people’s sensitivities and to avoid other signs being put up by those opposed to the visit.

    When the police was questioned about it, they said that they didn’t say anything about sensitivities or other signs going up but that they had asked to have the sign taken down because it was against municipal by-laws to put banner on heritage buildings.

    I couldn’t find anything “heritage ” about the building.

    • Walid on May 14, 2014, 12:12 pm

      History of the Christian Information Center run by the Franciscans that serves as a hostel to not only Catholics but to Christians of every colour, from the website of the Center:

      “The Christian Information Centre is located in a building which has had a long and interesting history. The original site was sold by a Muslim family to Dr Vahan Gaspar, himself a member of an Armenian family called Mordian. The sale was made possible through an official document of the Ottoman Empire, called a cushan. Once constructed, the street frontage of the building was used as the Royal Post Office of the Austrian Empire – the last director of which was a local Armenian called Artin Torasian. The remainder of the building was occupied by the Gaspar-Mordian family. The father of the family, Agop, acted as an agent for foreigners wishing to buy properties in the Lifta area. For example, it was through him that the property of a Muslim family called Assabi became the present-day Christ Church. 1918 the Post Office closed and was replaced by the Bank of Rome, which remained until 1940. At that point the offices began to be used as a Catholic Club.

      In 1948, Dr Gaspar fled to Lebanon and later in 1958, Mr Maroun Tarsha, an employee of the Custody of the Holy Land, arranged for the building to provide lodging for people attached to the GEIN firm. This firm worked on the Mosque of Omar as well as on the shrines of the Custody of the Holy Land at Bethany and Dominus Flevit. Thus at that time the building had quite mixed uses – for accommodation and storage, in addition to being the home of Dr Gaspar’s sisters.

      In 1964 the Custody of the Holy Land acquired the property from Dr Gaspar and a few years later (in 1971) began to totally renovate it. Fr Claudio Baratto OFM oversaw the work of the Israeli architect, Moshè Lewckovitz. Various changes were made – such as the removal of an embankment; a new off-centre entrance with a stairway; raised arches on the ground-floor; opening up the cistern and basement in order to build bathrooms; adding a ceiling, gallery and stairs to the patio.

      The launch of the Christian Information Centre took place in June 1973 and was attended by the Custos of the Holy Land, Emilio Roncari, OFM; the Apostolic Delegate, Pio Laghi and Dr Paul Saul Colbi, Director of the Israeli Government Department which has responsibility for relations with Christians.”

      • James Canning on May 14, 2014, 2:10 pm

        Very interesting.

      • amigo on May 15, 2014, 10:27 am


        That jumped right out .Remember “f n levit”.

  3. MasterAdrian on May 14, 2014, 4:13 pm

    And then people with the jewish faith scream hell and damnation about anti-semitism?

    If these same people want to fight anti-semitism honestly and dignified, and above all with the intent to be truthful, they should end their own hatred, anti-everything and all, and start accepting people with other believes and faiths!

    In my opinion the “request” to take down banners of welcome to another religious leader then a jewish one is showing the arrogance, the will to provoke for the sake of provoking, and above all the will to push down their own faith down other people’s throats!

    There is no jewish state, there is a state were people with the jewish faith live, and the moment the state of Israel will be declared a jewish state officially, all diplomatic and economical ties and relations should be severed and all representatives of that state should be labeled “unwanted persons” (or whatever the diplomatic phrase there is for people not wanted in a country!)

    (and no, I am not anti-jewish faith, I am anti-oppression, anti-suppression, and anti-forcing people!)

  4. dudu440 on May 14, 2014, 5:02 pm

    Funny, because I was wandering around Jerusalem today and saw several large (though not that large) banners welcoming the pope hanging on lightposts and the like … signed by the Jerusalem municipality.
    You’d think that would piss off the medieval maniacs even more.

    • annie on May 14, 2014, 8:18 pm

      I was wandering around Jerusalem today and saw several large.. banners welcoming the pope … signed by the Jerusalem municipality.

      amazing. take some photos and send them to us! we’ll publish them.

      • NickJOCW on May 15, 2014, 4:11 am

        Please do, Annie. I was really thrown by the lead story. Over a billion Catholics venerate the Pope in a manner hard for others to understand these days.

      • Walid on May 15, 2014, 7:37 am

        “Over a billion Catholics venerate the Pope …”

        When the pope arrives, there will be as many Muslims as Catholics gathering to see him. With exception to the few takfiri weirdos, the Pope is equally venerated by most Muslims. According to Orthodox Archbishop Atallah, the Pope will also be visiting al-Aqsa. In 2001 John Paul II removed his shoes and entered the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus where relics of Yuhanna al-Ma’madan (St John the Baptist) are kept. Benedictus XVI entered the mosques in Istanbul and Amman. Pope Francis would do great by entering al-Aqsa.

        Pope Francis has already declared that the Quran teaches peace. This didn’t go off too well with the Zios that have been claiming the very opposite. Like St Francis his namesake, the Pope will show a lot of affection to the children, especially the downtrodden Palestinian ones that the Zionists have dispossessed.

      • Ellen on May 15, 2014, 7:44 am

        Yes, venerated in the sense that the Pope is held in honor and respect. And yes, the Pope is equally venerated in this sense by Muslims as well.

      • NickJOCW on May 15, 2014, 9:27 am

        Ellen, No one prays to the Pope, we pray for him, for his well-being and for God’s help and guidance in his task. However, we are straying into philological matters, we’ll be late for tea..

      • Ellen on May 15, 2014, 7:40 am

        Nick, the Pope is not venerated by Catholics. The Pope is the administrative and spiritual leader of an institution. That is really all.

        Popes that have been canonized for sainthood are venerated just as other saints. Now that is something difficult for many to understand these days. Perhaps it is a hold-over from Hellenism.

      • eljay on May 15, 2014, 7:44 am

        >> Nick, the Pope is not venerated by Catholics.

        venerate: to feel or show deep respect for (someone or something that is considered great, holy, etc.)

        During my time as a Roman Catholic, we felt and showed – or were expected to feel and show – deep respect for the Pope as a pious and holy man, and as “God’s representative on Earth”.

      • NickJOCW on May 15, 2014, 7:55 am

        Ellen, the word ‘venerate’ means to revere, value, prize, regard with respect, reverence, heartfelt deference, etc. That I would suggest is exactly how Catholics regard him. Of course, as Walid reminds us above, such respect is not restricted to Catholics. What he is not is ‘worshipped’, nor are prayers offered him, either of which would be grotesque heresy.

      • Ellen on May 15, 2014, 8:09 am

        Nick, yes. In that sense absolutely. Thank you.

        But in the theological sense Catholics do not venerate (pray to for intervention) the Pope.

        Apologies for splitting hairs, but a kinda’ important difference.

      • Walid on May 15, 2014, 9:00 am

        Although he is head of the Roman Catholic Church, on several issues he speaks for all Christians. As with all Papal tours, heads of almost every other important Christian denomination as well as those of Muslims in the Holy Land will be meeting with Pope Francis. Similarly, the (Maronite) Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East has been speaking for Lebanese Christians, and Muslims including the Druze for almost 2 centuries. In 1919, Patriarch Howayek represented both Christians and Muslims at the Versailles Peace Conference to demand independence for Lebanon and to stress that Lebanon did not want to be part of the Greater Syria Kingdom that was being concocted by Faisal and Weizmann that would have created an independent Israel.

        The Pope’s visit to Israel will also see another first; Lebanon’s Patriarch, Cardinal al-Rai’ will be traveling to Israel, an enemy state, via Jordan to welcome the Pope, amid a major controversy in Lebanon because of it.

      • MHughes976 on May 15, 2014, 12:37 pm

        You may think that I speak from Protestant prejudice. I can’t offer the Pope much in the way of veneration but I do accept that he is trying to improve – and will probably succeed in improving – the lot of disadvantaged and endangered Christians, not only of Catholics, in the ME. I am sure that the mission is thought of as urgent diplomatic work on their behalf. But there is limitation, perhaps paradox, in this idea.
        This is a state visit, and state visits go ahead when and only when both parties are assured that they will benefit from contact with the other, which means that both expect to be at least validated, even praised. Some kind words will be said and some actions taken on behalf of the tiny Christian minority: I would expect a few louts and vandals to be rounded up amid much publicity. But this will be pretty limited. A rather elegant trap, an amusette, has been set for the Pope in the form of the question of Israeli military service (and all the consequent advantages) for Christians. The question will not be pressed on him, of course, but there will be polite murmurings in future months to the effect that since local Christians are not that ready to join in the all important war on terrorism they cannot , for all the respect in which their leaders are held, expect complete acceptance yet awhile. As a negotiator seeking to mitigate some of the effects of Zionism the Pope will not, not once for a minute or by the movement of an eyebrow, question Zionism’s basic validity: and publicity thundering all round the world – from both sides, of course – will make this seem like an affirmation of validity. In return the way will be cleared for shaking off, in very firm and assertive ways, all troublesome accusations of anti-Semitism on the part of former Popes. I’m not saying that these accusations are true but they are still troublesome and the time has come to finish with them. This seems necessary on the Roman side but there has to be a quid pro quo and it will be given: in giving it the Pope will be worth more than ten thousand Scarlett Johanssons. This visit is not a setback for Zionism but an achievement for it.

      • Walid on May 15, 2014, 3:42 pm

        “You may think that I speak from Protestant prejudice. ”

        I wouldn’t, MHughes, as long as you don’t start calling the rest of us “papists”. As to the rest of your opus, I agree with most of it, especially the part about the trip being and achievement for the Zionists, since this Pope is out to mend damaged fences everywhere, not break more of them. I’m guessing the Zionists will throw a carrot his way in the form of a little concession over the path of its thieving wall at the Cremisan Valley. If the Zionists don’t (and they’re known to be stupid enough not to), then the Pope will go after them with a 2X4.

  5. James Canning on May 14, 2014, 7:18 pm

    Wanting Israel to get out of the West Bank for its own sake, presumably is “anti-Semitic”.

  6. American on May 14, 2014, 9:14 pm

    Stop the presses!!….I have located signs of intelligent life in Israel!
    In the person of Carlo Strenger……and he’s 100% right.

    Memo to Netanyahu: Read ADL survey, and stop equating Israel criticism with anti-Semitism!
    Israel’s right wingers consistently make the most horrible of mistakes by associating with European parties and politicians from the extreme right.

    By Carlo Strenger | May 14, 2014 | 8:56 PM

  7. Chu on May 15, 2014, 12:33 pm

    JonesTown, anyone, anyone


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