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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
The Vatican expressing special interest in the
Temple Mount and other holy sites in Jerusalem.
Expose: The Vatican Wants to Lay its
Hands on Jerusalem
by Giulio Meotti, Italy
“Peace negotiations in the Middle East must tackle the issue of the
status of the holy sites of Jerusalem”, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head
of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, declared several
days ago in Rome.
The Vatican’s former foreign minister asked to place some Israeli holy
places under Vatican authority, alluding to the Cenacle on Mount Zion
and the garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives in
The first site also houses what is referred to as King David’s tomb.
“There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not
adequately resolved”, Tauran said. “The part of Jerusalem within the
walls – with the holy sites of the three religions – is humanity’s
heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be
safeguarded and it can only be done with a special,
The Israeli government and the Vatican are deadlocked in discussions
over the status of the religious sites. Vatican officials are now
reiterating their demand for control over the religious sites in the
ancient and holy city founded by King David as the capital of ancient
Israel and now the capital of the reestablished Jewish state.
Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, declared that Israel
might consider giving the Vatican “a greater role” in operating the
sites. In the last weeks, the Roman Catholic Church’s authorities
increased their political initiatives for Catholic control over some
sites in Jerusalem.
The Vatican’s former arcibishop in Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, just
promoted an appeal to the European Union and United States to “stop the
Hebraization of Jerusalem”.
Two weeks ago Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger, who was recently appointed by
Pope Benedict XVI to the Vatican’s highest court, talked in Washington
about a current U.S. Supreme Court case over whether an American boy
born in Jerusalem should add Israel after the name of the historic city
on his U.S. passport. Jaeger said that the question about Jerusalem is
not “whether it is the capital of Israel, it is a question of whether it
is a part of a national territory”.
A few days earlier, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, gave a
speech to greet the bishops of Europe and North America during their
annual pilgrimage in Israel, in which Twal denounced “the Israeli right
wing invading more and more of Jerusalem and trying to transform it into
an only Hebrew-Jewish city, excluding the other faiths”.
Claudette Habesch, the Caritas general-secretary in Jerusalem, a Vatican
NGO that works in social activities, just released an interview to Zenit
news agency, in which he “christianized” the Palestinian Intifada
against “what we call the Checkpoint of Humiliation”.
In September, Patriarch of Jerusalem Twal was at the White House for a
meeting with the American administration as well as to support the PA
statehood bid at the UN. Twal repeated Benedict XVI’s speech of May 13,
2009 in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, one of the most political
speeches ever pronounced by Ratzinger during his pontificate. It was
given in front of the most eloquent symbol of the conflict: the security
wall between Israel and the PA areas.
On that day the Pope spoke specifically of an “independent Palestinian
The Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican’s powerful agency for
worldwide pilgrimages, just organized a “marathon for peace” in
Jerusalem to protest against the security fence near Bethlehem and to
support "Palestinian political rights". The march began on the Mount of
Olives, “where the Last Supper took place”.
On December 1st, several Christian and Muslim dignitaries met in Beit
Sahour for a conference on “How to live together in a future Palestinian
state?”. Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Sheikh
Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, also attended the
event organized by Al-Liqa, a Vatican ecumenical center based in
Sabbah said that “recourse to the UN for a Palestinian state is a step
toward peace”. Last summer, Latin Patriarch Twal took part in a meeting
in London with Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, in
which the Vatican envoy denounced the “more than 550.000 Israelis living
in East Jerusalem and the West Bank” and “the demography of Jerusalem
changing rapidly with the sacred space being threatened”.
In 2006, then Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister,
Tzipi Livni, negotiated to give away the “holy basin” to the Vatican.
At the time, President Moshe Katzav, in the face of increasing public
pressure, was forced to deny any plans to sign away the King David’s
complex in Jerusalem.
It now appears that this option has once again surfaced. A major voice
for the Vatican’s plan is Hanna Siniora, the elder statesman of
Palestinian 'peace' activists, whose office is in the Vatican’s Tantur
Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Jerusalem.
The site known as King David’s Tomb is the major target in the Vatican’s
plan. It’s a complex of buildings of some 100,000 square feet where
David and Solomon, and kings of Judea, are said to be buried, although
this is disputed by historians.
The Upper Room, or Cenacle, as it is known, is on the second floor of
the Crusader-era building. During his visit to Israel in 2000, Pope John
Paul II held Mass there. The Roman Catholic Church has been fighting for
more than 450 years to win back control over the sanctuary, which was
seized from Franciscan monks during the Ottoman Empire's rule around
The building was granted to the Diaspora Yeshiva over 40 years ago, and
yeshiva heads fear that the Vatican wishes to turn it into a pilgrimage
site for hundreds of thousands of Catholics and hold religious services
The Vatican wants Israel relinquishing sovereignty at the Western Wall
and the Temple Mount. The Holy See uses the expression “Holy Basin”,
which refers to the area of the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount
Zion and a variety of Christian holy sites which the administration of
former U.S. President Bill Clinton began reccomending be administered
under a “special regime”.
The Obama plan also calls for resolving the two thorniest issues in the
conflict by sharing Jerusalem and settling Arab refugees in Arab
countries or a future Palestinian state, but not in Israel. According to
Obama, the Old City of Jerusalem would be designated an “international
Israel’s President Shimon Peres, who has no authority, also agreed to
hand over to the Vatican the sovereignty of the holy sites.
Any Vatican claim to a seat at the negotiating table is undermined by
the complicity of the Vatican between 1948 and 1967. During the
Jordanian occupation, Judaism’s holiest sites were desecrated and Jews
were barred from visiting these shrines. The Jordanians built a hotel
and a road through the Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives and they used
the broken headstones to build the latrines in the construction of the
Intercontintental Hotel, which likely rests on burial grounds.
As was its practice during the Holocaust under Pius XII, the Vatican
then turned a deaf ear to these gross violations of Jewish human rights.
If Israel would cede Jewish sovereignty on the holy sites, it would mean
returning to a time when Jerusalem was separated by a seven-kilometer
wall, barbed wire, minefields and bunkers. A tourist visiting the holy
city would have found signs warning “Danger - Frontier ahead!”, “Snipers
nearby” and “shetah hahefker”, which in Hebrew means: No-Man’s Land.
It would be Sarajevo, not the Holy City of Jerusalem.
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a weekly column
for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that
researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by
Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall
Street Journal, YNet, Frontpage and Commentary.