CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Frozen accounts and few pilgrims

JERUSALEM (AsiaNews): “Things have worsened, there is no real willingness to resume peace negotiations and there is always an excuse to put it off. Every day we expect more deaths, but nothing is done to resume dialogue,” Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, the patriarchal vicar of Jerusalem, said in describing the current situation in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

On top of the battle being waged between the Church and the Israeli Ministry of Education over schools, he said some municipalities are placing a tax on the coffers of the Church and are freezing the bank accounts of dioceses and religious congregations.

“We’ve recently heard,” Archbishop Marcuzzo said, “that some municipalities have blocked the accounts of Churches, clergy, religious orders (congregations). Moreover, in addition to the services we already regularly pay, they want to compel dioceses to pay an extra administrative tax, but it is an absurdity, because since the days of the Ottoman Empire religious orders have been exempt.”

The bishop did not hide his concern for the near future, adding, “Even my personal account has been blocked. The problem is that there are direct debits from the accounts which are currently blocked, so we risk finding ourselves with nothing, not even for electricity or gas... nothing.”

He explained that although these decisions are made at a municipal level, the government has done nothing to stop them—even though it says it is against it, but there is no great will to resolve the issue.

The nuncio informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but nothing has been done.

In addition the current accounts of schools and hospitals have been frozen, and all this has happened at a time when all dialogue between the Israeli government and the Holy See has ceased, without any sign of resuming.

He also highlighted the insecurity of an economy built on tourism, as the Church relies heavily on donations from pilgrims, and the industry has suffered a 30 per cent slump.

He added that although visitors from Nigeria, Korea and Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines keep coming, the overall number is down and since 30 per cent of Christians work in industries that service tourists, the problem becomes more complex.

Bishop Marcuzzo said that he believes that the mass media coverage of the violence in the Middle East is doing Israel a disservice, as the violence does not affect Israel or Palestine.

He said that the people feel abandoned, which was illustrated by the great shot in the arm that a visit from the Finnish ambassador provided for children at a school that she visited.

 

“When they see a person who is interested in them, who cares about them, the children feel encouraged,” he said, adding that Christians need to feel embraced and included also.

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