COMMUNIQUE FROM THE LATIN PATRIARCHATE

October 5, 1998

A report, drafted by security officials for cabinet review, quoted By STEVE RODAN The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 4, 1998 , says "The Palestinian Authority has intensified its effort to control Christian churches in Israel as part of its campaign to acquire their extensive landholdings in the country and gain influence in the West." The government report continues:"the PA effort began with its takeover of churches in Bethlehem, including the Church of Nativity, and has now extended to churches and Christian sites in Jerusalem. These include the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of Mary Magdalene.The PA effort is focused on gaining control over the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem and the Greek Catholic Bishopric in the Galilee."

As AN ANSWER ON THIS MISINFORMATION OF THE PUBLIC OPINION, The Latin Patriarchate sent me as Representative of the Latin Patriarchate in the USA this Communiqué signed by Patriarch Michel Sabbah.

A year ago, an Israeli government report was published by Jerusalem Post on October 1997 and republished on many Important US and English News Papers had the same answer for the Latin Patriarchate. That report spoke about the P.A persecuting the Palestinian Christians; it was used by the Christian-Zionists to call for the US Administration to work a bill for the Protection of people under persecution. About the 1997 Report, please go to http://www.al-bushra.org

Fr. Labib Kobti

COMMUNIQUE

From the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

October 5, 1998

1. We read about the Rodan's Report "PA Intensifying bid to control churches," Our commentary is the following: it has no foundation, neither it corresponds to any truth.

We wonder from which sources the author has got his informations. We, the Christian Churches, we are not living what Rodan's report tells about us. If he is so concerned with our peace and rights, as Christians, the disinformation he gives does not help in any way. The author of the report should make an attempt to be more objective and more helpful to both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to come to a mutual understanding and respect

2. No church pastor in all the Palestinian Territories has reported to us of such interference or pressure on the Churches by the Palestinian Authority.

The Christian Holy Places, communities' churches, cemeteries, cultural and educational institutions, and "vast" landholdings are fully under Christian control and fully respected, and nobody ever tried to interfere. On the contrary, we are grateful to the Palestinian Authority who is helping with its utmost to secure the rights and the old status quo. On the other hand, how would the PA interfere in the church of the Holy Sepulcher situated in Jerusalem itself where the PA does not have any access.

3. The Palestinian Authority is rather very sensitive to anything which concerns Christians in order to support and protect. No body could deny the transitory character of the current period with all its general instability, political, economical and social. The responsible of this instability is the blockage of the peace process under various pretexts. 4. The identity among both Muslims and Christians of Palestine is rooted in their being one and same people, faced by same challenges and difficulties, engaged in forging a common future in the hard times we are altogether living.

On the political scene, Palestinian Christians have from the very beginning played an important role. As Arab Christians, we will remain always faithful to ourselves as Christians and as Arabs, and playing our role of peacemakers.

5. Having said that, we think that the aim of such a report is to divert the attention of the public opinion from the real issues at stake. We mean the oppressive situation that the Palestinian people, both Muslim and Christian, are undergoing, as the peace process is blocked.

We bitterly resent this unjust mass-media war which is waging against Palestinian Christians. These false accusations are endangering the welfare of the Christian community in this region and not defending the peace cause. They are dangerously undermining the whole peace process, as well as the serenity and stability of a people who is struggling hard to survive. Such accusations are in favor of nobody in this region.

We call upon everybody on this crucial and very critical stage, reporters and politicians particularly, to be more objective when writing or reporting about such a sensitive and inflammatory issue. It is very easy to kindle the fire of religious sensitivity. This could affect dramatically the fate and destiny of not only one people but the two peoples, Palestinian and Israeli, who are paying dearly to come to terms with each other.

+ Patriarch Michel Sabbah

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem