Catholic official repudiates report on Pa Persecution of Christians

By: HAIM SHAPIRO

Novemebr 19th, 1997

A Catholic official yesterday characterized a government report, which said that Christians are being persecuted by the Palestinian Authority, as being baseless.

The unsigned report said that cemeteries are being vandalized, churches are being burglarized, and Islamic militants fearlessly harass Christian youngsters.

But Wadie Abu-Nassar, director of the Great Jubilee 2000 office of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, said he had personally checked every case of alleged persecution mentioned in the report, but could find no basis for the allegations.

For example, he said, the report has said that the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yaser Arafat had summarily taken over a building belonging to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate as his headquarters in officials of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the highest level has insisted they had invited Arafat.

The report also suggested that Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah is, in effect, a spokesman for the PA. Abu-Nassar said that it was only natural that the patriarch should speak out about the concerns facing his community.

"He has always spoken of the problems of his faithful and the fact is that the Palestinian have more problems than others", Abu-Nassar said.

Abu-Nassar added it is true there were some incidents of action against Christians in the autonomous areas. But they were not carried out by the PA, but by "childish element". In fact, he added, there is a high percentage of Christians in leading PA positions.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Moshe Katsay met with Vatican Ambassador Archbishop Andera Montezemolo yesterday to plan for a massive influx of Christian pilgrims expected to mark the year 2000.

The Holy Landís Council of Bishops is scheduled to meet next week in Jerusalem to discuss arrangements for the millennium, Montezemolo said he would examine the possibility of using Church land to erect temporary accommodations for the pilgrims.

Katsav told the papal envoy that he will receive the Israel 2000 Report on the preparation within the next two weeks.

Jay Bushunsky contribused this report.