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Calls for justice after arson attack damages church in Galilee

JERUSALEM (CNS): “We don’t seek revenge, but justice,” said Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said at a Mass concelebrated with Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo from Jerusalem, at the Benedictine Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, along the Sea of Galilee.

Only three days prior, on June 18, an arson attack seriously damaged the church, injuring an elderly monk and a volunteer, destroying the roof while damaging a storage room, church offices and a prayer room. 

Thousands of Christians were joined by Druze, Muslims and Jews in a march to protest the attack. They carried large wooden crosses and Vatican flags and called for justice. At one point a group of young people blocked the access road to the church.

Although police initially detained 16 young people who had been camping in the area on the night of the attack, they were later released. 

The Ha’aretz newspaper reported on June 22 that attacks on churches have become a concern for police, who began intelligence work to identify activists with violent intentions in May 2014, before Pope Francis’ visit to Israel.

Israel has said it would help with repairs.

The Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land noted in a June 18 statement that the Tabgha attack is the third the Benedictine community in the Holy Land has suffered. 

An attack occurred on the Benedictine Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion near the Cenacle, where a fire was set on 26 May 2014, just minutes after the departure of Pope Francis. 

The assembly noted that Benedictine monks on Mount Zion are incessantly the targets of “acts of contempt and violence.”

However, perpetrators of the attacks continue to elude investigators.

“Jews, Christians and Muslims together must fight against such manifestations of violence and extremism,” the statement said. 


It said, “The education of young people in religious schools must be emphasised in favor of tolerance and coexistence. In recent months, other attacks were perpetrated against Christian sites or mosques and investigations were not followed up. Given the seriousness of these incidents, we demand immediate investigation, and the perpetrators of this act of vandalism be brought to justice.”

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