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 incident. (S.C.)