Church leaders condemn new vandalism at two Christian sites in Jerusalem

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — One week after a Christian cemetery
was desecrated outside of Jerusalem, two more Christian sites were vandalized
in the city.

Several anti-Christian slogans in Hebrew were discovered scrawled
along the walls of the Benedictine
Dormition Abbey monastery and the neighboring Greek Orthodox seminary,
both located on Mount Zion next to the walls of the Old City.

The Latin
Patriarchate of Jerusalem denounced the acts, which occurred Jan. 16 and
17, and repeated its belief in the importance of education toward tolerance while
urging “follow-up” against those who incite intolerance against Christians.

“It is regrettable that such episodes of hatred come 50
years after ‘Nostra Aetate’ which initiated the interreligious dialogue of the
Catholic Church with other religions, and turned a new page between Catholic
Church and Judaism,” the patriarchate said in a statement Jan. 17. “We hope
that the perpetrators will be arrested before proposed threats are carried

For the Dormition Abbey, which is believed to have been
built on the spot where Mary died, it was the fifth time the building was
vandalized in recent years. A fire that broke out at the monastery in February
was determined to be arson, and another arson incident took place just after
Pope Francis’ visit to the monastery in May 2015. In 2012 and 2013,
anti-Christian graffiti also appeared on abbey walls.

Authorities said the graffiti appeared to be written by different
hands. Photographs depicting the graffiti showed statements such as “Christians
go to hell,” “Death to the heathen Christians, the enemies of Israel” and “Let
his (Jesus’) name and memory be obliterated.”

Father Nikodemus Schnabel, spokesman for the abbey, said in a statement
Jan. 17 that the red and black paint the Israeli police used to crudely and
unsuccessfully try to cover up the graffiti did even more damage.

He noted that between the nights of Jan. 16 and 17, there
had been a loud and aggressive gathering with music and chanting by “Jewish
right-wing radicals” in their neighborhood near the contested Tomb of David site. He said such
disruptive gatherings have taken place nearly every Saturday for three years.

The graffiti, he said, was found in an area of the
monastery that is not monitored by security cameras despite what he said was
promised by Israeli security authorities in the summer 2013 when several
monastery cars were badly damaged and hate graffiti was discovered on monastery

Mickey Rosenfeld, Israeli police spokesman, said he was
unaware of such a promise about cameras and that police were investigating the
most recent.

“We call on the security agencies to take appropriate
measures against this hate crime and to work toward an improvement of the
security situation on Mount Zion as it has been promised since summer 2013,” Father
Schnabel said in his statement. “We are grateful for the overwhelming
solidarity of all our friends in Israel. We as monks of Dormition Abbey will
not cease to pray for reconciliation, justice and peace — and also for the
perpetrators of tonight, that hatred may disappear from their hearts.”

As they have done since 2011 after other incidents, Tag Meir, a faith-based
organization working to end racism in Israel, sent a delegation of members in
support of the monastery and seminary to denounce the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the
attacks during a weekly cabinet meeting, saying “there is no place for actions
like these.”

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