Bishop Marcuzzo calls for Jerusalem’s Christian quarter to become a ‘special zone’ to protect its identity
The prelate backs the proposal made by the patriarchs and heads of the Churches of the Holy Land in their Christmas statement. A special zone is necessary to preserve the Christian presence, protect the status quo, and uphold the city’s universality. The community’s future is endangered by “physical and legal attacks”. The prelate criticises Israel for allowing US Jews to come to Jerusalem while banning Christian pilgrims.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Safeguarding the Christian quarter of Jerusalem is crucial to “maintaining the presence” of its residents and the “status quo”, which protects Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, this according Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, former Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem of the Latins
Still active in pastoral outreach, the prelate expressed his support for the request made recently by the patriarchs and heads of the Churches of the holy city in a Christmas statement.
“We are in favour of this appeal but doubts remain about whether it will be heeded by Israeli authorities,” said the bishop, who has lived in the region for decades and knows it very well.
The statement was made public on Monday. In it, Jerusalem’s Christian leaders call for dialogue on creating a “special” zone with the specific aim of “safeguard[ing] the integrity" of the Christian quarter in the Old City.
The goal is to ensure its uniqueness and preserve its heritage for the well-being "of the local community, our national life, and the wider world.”
The statement became necessary after several recent episodes that constitute a "threat" to the very presence of Christians.
Such a request was made in the past by Vatican emissaries and by the Holy See, to guarantee the holy places of Jerusalem, which represent something unique for the faithful of the world’s three great monotheistic religions.
It is also the way to protect believers from “unilateral” deeds and political acts by single countries or local political-religious groups that might upset the balance.
On 9 December, the representatives of the Christian Churches of the Holy Land met at the seat of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate.
On that occasion, from the balcony of the Imperial Hotel at Jaffa Gate, one of the entrances to the Christian quarter, Patriarch Theophilos III stressed the importance of the Christian quarter and the threats to its identity, assets as well as residents.
In particular, the statement expresses concerns about the “acts of radical Jewish nationalist groups,” who seeks to reduce the non-Jewish population in Jerusalem through “the purchase of Palestinian houses”.
Our goal, Bishop Marcuzzo said, is to “preserve the Christian presence and the status quo, and protect everyone.”
All this is "challenged daily" by "physical and legal attacks" with the aim of taking over the ownership of houses and goods “in the Muslim and Christian parts” of Jerusalem.
"This frightens us because it endangers national cohesion itself,” the prelate noted. “Israel is and must be open, universal, but if it closes in on itself, in small ghettos dominated by local authorities,” it will be a defeat for everyone.
For Bishop Marcuzzo, the danger is constituted by “radical” and fanatical groups who attack and prevent regular celebrations or even movement in certain parts of the city. Recently, Armenian monks were targeted by such groups.
"The meaning of this special zone is precisely to prevent the territory from losing its population” because in the long run "people get tired of harassment and mistreatment”. Another goal is to end “inequality of treatment and illegality”.
Speaking about inequality, the prelate is critical of Israeli authorities who “grant entry permits to American Jews”, but impose bans on others because of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, such as Christian pilgrims for Christmas.
Referring to the issue of entry permits into Israel any exceptions are granted by a Committee “without bias or discrimination toward any race or religion”, the embassy to the Holy See said in a note.