09/27/2004, 00.00
israel - holy land
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"Peaceful" Orthodox Patriarch assaults police and friars inside the Holy Sepulchre Basilica

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - This morning (Monday), at about eleven o'clock in the morning, dozens of Greek Orthodox monks, led by their Patriarch Ireneos (which means "peaceful"), rampaged through parts of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre Basilica in Jerusalem, assaulting police and attacking the Franciscan Friars. Several police officers were injured in the attack, and several Franciscans suffered blows. The Franciscan Friars represent the Catholic Church at this holiest Shrine of Christendom, commemorating the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Christ.

The Israeli Government had forced the Franciscan Friars to acquiesce in an exception to the international legal regime in the Basilica, and let the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and his men conduct a procession through a part of the Basilica reserved to the Catholic Church (the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, contrary to the solemn treaty commitment of the Israeli Government to observe and enforce the legal regime, known as Status Quo. But, arrived at the place, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and his men, instead of simply passing through, began a frenzy of violence, physically attacking the police and the Franciscan Friars. Observers in Jerusalem say that the level of aggression on the part of the Greek Orthodox monks at the Holy Places has risen appreciably since the present Patriarch came into office. "Only ironically he can be named 'Ireneos' (the peaceful)", they told AsiaNews. Other sources expressed their critics against the Israeli Government who had apparently made a mistake in thinking it could contain that violence by giving in to demands to make exceptions to the legal regime.

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