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“ “O little town of Bethlehem/How still we see thee lie/Above thy deep and dreamless sleep/The silent stars go by,” runs the famous Christmas carol sung all over the English-speaking world as it celebrates Christmas…….. In today’s Bethlehem “dreamless sleep” is more like a nightmare, and the town can only “lie still” when Israel’s occupation ends.”
“Catholics would be injured in their religious sentiment and rightly fear for their rights if Palestine would belong exclusively to the Hebrews,” – Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Pope Pius XII‟s Secretary of State (7th April 1943)
Christians in Jerusalem’s Old City say their presence at the geographical heart of their faith is under threat from intimidation and aggressive property acquisition by hardline Jewish settlers.
According to Church leaders, priests are being verbally abused and spat at, and property vandalised.
The churches say they are facing onslaught on three fronts: a war of attrition waged by hardline settlers; unprecedented tax demands by Jerusalem city council; and a proposal to allow the expropriation of church land sold to private developers.
Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem and the most senior Christian leader in the Holy Land, told the Guardian: “Today the church faces a most severe threat at the hands of certain settler groups. The settlers are persistent in their attempts to erode the presence of the Christian community in Jerusalem.
“These radical settler groups are highly organised. Over the last years we have witnessed the desecration and vandalism of an unprecedented number of churches and holy sites and receive growing numbers of reports from priests and local worshippers who have been assaulted and attacked.
“Where the authorities are concerned, this behaviour goes largely unchecked and unpunished.”
Zionists have forcibly and murderously stolen much of the land from the Palestinian people, now they are trying to seize Church-owned buildings and land as well.
“Jerusalem’s famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre has shut indefinitely in an unprecedented move amid a fierce row with the Israeli government.
The church is the holiest site in Christianity and is held to contain the two sites where Jesus was crucified then buried and resurrected.
It is highly unusual for the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic denominations, who all share custody of the church, to agree to a stance as dramatic as closing the whole site and tensions between denominations often run high over control of its various chapels and compartments.
But the separate leaders issued a joint statement saying the move was ‘in protest at persistent moves to intimidate Christians and discriminate against churches in the Holy Land’.
The shock move comes amid a tense fallout with the Israeli government over a bill that would give the Israeli government power to confiscate church property. The ‘Bill of Church Lands’, sponsored by Israeli settler groups and signed by 40 members of Israel’s Knesset, was branded ‘discriminatory and racist’ as well as ‘abhorrent’ in the strongly worded statement signed by Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land and Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.
It amounts to a ‘systematic campaign against the Churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land’, the church leaders said in a statement on Sunday.”
“We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem — but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people.”