Anti-Christian slogans alarm Church before Pope's Holy Land visit

Thu May 8, 2014 9:35am EDT
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By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem, preparing for a visit by Pope Francis later this month, has expressed alarm over threats to Christians scrawled by suspected Jewish extremists on church property in the Holy Land.

In an incident on Monday, "Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel" was daubed in Hebrew on an outer column of the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.

"The wave of fanaticism and intimidation against Christians continues," the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem posted on its website, referring to so-called "price tag" incidents.

"Mere coincidence?" the patriarchate statement asked. "The Notre Dame Center is property of the Holy See and this provocation comes two weeks before Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land and Jerusalem."

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli security services fear that Jewish radicals might carry out a major hate crime against the Christian population or institutions to drum up media attention during the Pope's pilgrimage.

Police districts, the newspaper said, were ordered to produce security plans to protect Christian sites and gather intelligence on Jewish extremist activities.

A police spokesman declined to comment directly on the report but said stringent security measures would be in effect for the papal visit.

In recent years, "price tag" attacks have targeted mosques, Palestinian homes and Christian monasteries in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war and Palestinians seek as part of a future state.   Continued...

A woman takes a photo of a girl with a mobile phone in front of a banner depicting Pope Francis outside Jerusalem's Old City April 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad