11/14/2007, 00.00
ISRAEL - VATICAN
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Austrian bishops stopped at the Wailing Wall : they were wearing crosses

Last week the delegation led by Card. Schonborn were not allowed entry to the Wailing Wall in western Jerusalem because they refused to “hide” their pectoral crosses. The Archbishop of Vienna expresses “understanding and respect for Hebrew religious sensitivity”. Instead Rabbi Rabinovitch expresses “surprise”: “Not even the Pope opposed” this directive.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) –Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, denied a delegation of Austrian bishop’s access to the Wailing Wall, because they were wearing their pectoral crosses.  The group of prelates was led by Card. Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna.

According to directives set out by Rabinovitch, the wearing of the Latin cross before the Western Wall of Jerusalem, one of the most sacred places for Jewish people is forbidden. “Crosses are a symbol that hurts Jewish feelings”, explained the Rabbi.

The Austrian Embassy cultural attaché Arad Benko told Associated Press (AP) the delegation of bishops “did not know of the existence of this dress code”. On November 8th last the “Archbishop and bishops arrived in their traditional dress complete with crosses and robes” – said Benko – “At the entrance they were stopped and told they could not come in unless they removed their crosses”. Instead, they retreated to a nearby terrace with view of the Wall, reserved to non Hebrews.

Card. Schonborn says he “was not disappointed” by the episode: “Our decision to heed the requests not to approach the Wall was made out of respect for the religious sensitivities of the Jews”.  Contacted by AsiaNews the cardinal reiterated in fact that the event “is not of any importance” and expresses his understanding of Rabinovitch wishes. “Neither do we Christians allow non believers come up to the altar”, he said.

For his part, the Wailing Wall Rabbi immediately clarified his position with AP, saying his decision was not made out of religious intolerance: “They did not have to take them off, just hide them. I've never encountered a Christian who has refused, including the Pope”. A somewhat provocatory and erroneous declaration, given the historic photo of John Paul II praying before the Wall in the Jubilee year 2000, wearing his pectoral cross.

 

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