Attacks on churches in Israel are “poison” before pope’s visit, patriarch says

May 12, 2014
(Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, pauses during a news conference in the northern city of Haifa, called due to recent attacks dubbed "price tagging", May 11, 2014. Twal said on Sunday a spate of attacks he described as acts of terror against the church were poisoning the atmosphere ahead of this month's visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to arrest more perpetrators. REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

(Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, pauses during a news conference in the northern city of Haifa, May 11, 2014. REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land said on Sunday a spate of attacks against the Church had poisoned the atmosphere ahead of this month’s visit by Pope Francis, and urged Israel to crack down on the perpetrators.

Fourteen attacks by suspected far-right Israelis have been reported in the past year. Several have been carried out over the last month, including a death threat daubed in Hebrew at the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.

The attacks have become known as “price tags” – a reference by ultranationalist Jews to making the Israeli government “pay” for any curbs on Jewish settlement on Palestinian land.

“There has been a marked increase of ‘price tag’ provocations within Israel,” Fouad Twal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, told reporters at a post-Easter procession in the city of Haifa, home to thousands of Israeli Arab church faithful.

“This wave of extremist actions of terror are surely of grave concern to all reasonable persons.”

Twal said “the unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere” ahead of Pope Francis’ first pilgrimage to the Holy Land since ascending to the papacy. The pontiff will visit Jordan, the West Bank and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26.

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