Jerusalem Christians Criticize Possible Curfew When Pope Visits

Write Letter to Apostolic Nuncio to Ensure They Can Welcome Pontiff

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Christians in Jerusalem have written to the apostolic nuncio to Israel to voice concern that they may be prevented from welcoming the Pope when he visits the country later this month. 

They have said Israel is attempting to impose a curfew on the city, including the Christian Quarter, and the streets could be empty when the Pope arrives.  

“On the eve of the visit of Pope Francis in Jerusalem, and his meeting with His Holiness Bartholomew I, we claim our legitimate right to welcome our spiritual leaders,” the Christians have written.

The letter, written by some Catholics of the Latin parish of St. Saviour in the Old Town of Jerusalem, was sent to Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, apostolic nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, according to Agenzia Fides.

“We are aware that the Mass will be celebrated in Bethlehem for the faithful Palestinians,” Hania Kassassieh, an Orthodox Christian married to a Catholic of the Latin Rite and one of the promoters of the letter, told Fides. “But we believe that as the indigenous inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the descendants of the first Christians, a meeting with our fathers in Jerusalem there will be prevented.”

“We do not want to be excluded from a historical religious event, and we want to offer our cooperation for the success of the visit,” asserted Kassassieh.

“We are witnessing the attempt of the Israeli occupation to impose a curfew on the streets, including the Christian Quarter, during the visit. The curfew is another attempt by the occupying power to deny our existence,” she said, adding: “It’s unacceptable that the Pope walk through the narrow streets of the Christian quarter of the faithful and finding them empty of any sign of life.”

The voices behind the initiative were to meet Thursday afternoon with Bishop William Shomali, patriarchal vicar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The Pope is scheduled to stay in Jerusalem May 25-26. (D.C.L.)

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