The Israeli President meets the Patriarch in Tabgha
TABGHA– A highly symbolic meeting on Thursday morning, August 27, in Galilee: that of Patriarch Fouad Twal with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, at the Monastery of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha, targeted last June by a criminal arson.
This visit by Israeli President was meant first and foremost, to serve as a strong sign of solidarity with the Christian community of Tabgha, still under the effect of the brutal arson which hit the Monastery last June 14. On that same day, President Rivlin had spoken by telephone with Dom Gregory Collins, Abbott of the Benedictine Dormition Abbey (motherhouse of the Monastery of Tabgha) to express his support.
The President again strongly condemned this attack, which was the second against this holy site within two years, asserting however, that it did not reflect the feeling of Jews regarding Christians. It is worth recalling that three suspects were arrested and found guilty last July, in the process of the investigation. The three men belong to a small extremist group, responsible for several anti-Christian actions and aggressions against Palestinian civilians over the last years. A legal decision is meanwhile expected.
Israel secures the freedom of worship for everybody
After a welcome speech by Dom Gregory Collins, the Latin Patriarch His Beatitude Fouad Twal, addressing the President, pointed out the major concerns of Christian communities of the Holy Land, facing the escalating religious extremism and acts of vandalism against Christian sites – Tabgha being the latest, and insisting on the duty of the Israeli authorities to safeguard security of Churches and of the Holy Places.
The Israeli President wished to dispel the fears, and stressed that: “Israel is a democratic country which secures the freedom of worship for everybody.” Christian communities which enjoy this basic right should be able to prosper in security, saying he will express this himself to Pope Francis during his forthcoming visit to the Vatican, scheduled in September.
Cremisan and Christian schools on the agenda
The Patriarch did not fail to mention in Mr. Rivlin’s presence the Cremisan Valley case, and the anguish of Palestinian Christian families, whose lands and properties are threatened by the construction of the Separation Wall. Construction was finally authorized by the Supreme Court, which earlier ruled in favor of the families, prior to its reversal in early July.
Patriarch Twal also thanked the President for his mediation role in the dispute between the Office of the Christian Schools and the Israeli authorities. He expressed a wish that the President could meet the European Bishops of the CCEE, who will have their plenary assembly in the Holy Land in September.
This meeting, which took place with utmost discretion, lasted for about forty minutes. Several high-ranking personalities were present. Among them: the Papal Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto; the Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem Bishop William Shomali; the Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo; the Patriarchal Vicar for the Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel, Rev. Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ; the Custos of the Holy Land, Rev. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM; the representative of the Ambassador of Germany, and Mr. Bernd Mussinghoff, representative of the German Association of the Holy Land.