Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The beating of a Coptic Orthodox priest on 4 May only a
few metres from the Holy Sepulchre, during Holy Saturday celebrations, has
become a major issue after an amateur video surfaced
online, later posted on the Jerusalem Post
website. The tape shows Fr Arsanios, the 85-year-old head of the Coptic
Church in Ramallah, brutally pushed around by Israeli police.
On Monday, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the leaders of the
Christian Churches in the Holy Land issued a statement slamming the excessive
and unwarranted security measures taken by police that prevented "thousands
of the faithful from quietly participating in Easter celebrations in the Holy
Sepulchre of Jerusalem."
Interviewed by AsiaNews, Mgr
William Shomali, patriarchal vicar to Jerusalem, said that such acts take place
every year, which pilgrims and religious authorities have always tolerated, but
on this occasion, police went too far.
"We do not criticise the need for security in such events or the
presence of Israeli police," he said, "but denying access to the Holy
Sepulchre, treating pilgrims and clergy with brutal methods, shoving handicapped
people are hurtful. The Patriarchate had to take a stand."
Apparently, the incident took place after police began to block streets in
the old city of Jerusalem stopping the flow of pilgrims to the Holy Sepulchre.
This resulted in an altercation between some agents and pilgrims,
including Fr Arsanios, who was manhandled with brutally. The elderly clergyman
briefly lost consciousness, and was subsequently treated at an area hospital.
The incident prompted Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin Ze'ev Elkin to
express his apologies to Cairo and the leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
According Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Jerusalem police, law
enforcement and representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church met in recent
days to shed light on the incident and determine responsibility for the