Eight Catholic bishops from Europe and North America have just visited the Christian community in Gaza.
The Vatican high profile delegation included Patrick Kelly, archbishop of Liverpool; Richard Smith, archbishop of Edmonton, Canada; Gerald Kicanas, bishop of Tucson, US; Michel Dubost, bishop of Evry, France; and Riccardo Fontana, bishop of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Italy.
French Bishop Dubost’s comment was, “Last week, I asked prisoners in the largest prison in Europe (in Evry) to pray for you”.
The inference is clear: Gaza’s Christians are living in a big prison and terrified by Israel.
News.va, the Roman Catholic Church news agency, published a report on the event, writing, “The signs of the 2009 conflict and the continuing Israeli air strikes are all around…”.
Not a word about the Islamic repression of that tiny Christian community in Gaza – and Bethlehem and the rest of the PA.
The prison comparison was reiterated by another bishop. “I have just returned from visiting two of the largest ‘open prisons’ in the world – Bethlehem and the Gaza strip”, wrote William Kenney, auxiliary bishop in Birmingham who led the Catholic delegation. Bishop Kelly said that “violence is evil especially when it blocks humanitarian relief desperately needed”.
Raymond Field, auxiliary bishop of Dublin, also defined the Gaza Strip as “a large prison”.
Last December, Palestinian Hamas leader, Mahmoud al Zahar, met with with Father Manuel Musalam, head of the Latin Church in Gaza, who is known for having a radical anti-Jewish stance (in 2006 Musalam met also with Khader Habib, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip). “Christians are not threatened by Muslims” – Musalam said – everyone faces the same problem, that of Israel’s “humiliation”.
This Catholic head of Gaza once told the Palestinian Authority television: “The Jew has a principle from which we suffer and which he tries to impose on people: the principle of the ‘gentiles’. ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ are based on this principle, and anyone who reads the ‘Protocols’ feels that we are in this period with the Jews …”.
The Bishops’ official visit in Gaza is part of a recent Vatican course of action with the Palestinian Authority. Last September, Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict XVI, was at the White House for a meeting with the American administration as well as to support the PA statehood bid at the UN.
On December 1st, several Christian and Muslim dignitaries met in Beit Sahour for a conference on “How to live together in a future Palestinian state?”. Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, attended the event, organized by Al Liqa, a Vatican ecumenical center based in Bethlehem.
Several days ago the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales compared the Palestinians to the Jesus’ passion. “We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort”, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said during his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. “A shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight … We pray for them tonight”.
At the Al Liqa center Christmas’ celebration Muslim Palestinians presented a Qur’anic recitation of the birth of ‘Isa. Isa is the Islamic name for Jesus.