Monday, May 11, 2009

Pope Walks Out After Anti-Israel Diatribe

Pope Benedict XVI (R) walks past senior Palestinian Muslim cleric Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi as he arrives to attend a meeting with representatives of the organizations for the inter-religious dialogue in the Our Lady of Jerusalem Centre in Jerusalem May 11, 2009. Tamimi fiercely denounced Israeli policy in Jerusalem in the presence of Pope Benedict on Monday and appealed to the pope to help end what he called the ”crimes” of the Jewish state. REUTERS-Sky News

Christopher @ Pope Benedict in Israel has the best and complete analysis of what unfortunately transpired:

Lest there be any misinterpretation as to why the Pope and Tamimi shook hands after the incident occurred, Tobias Buck (Financial Times explains:

Organisers tried to persuade the sheikh to stop, but he continued for several minutes. According to local media reports, there was no translation available, so the pontiff was made aware of the content of the statement only after Mr al-Tamimi had finished speaking. The Pope and his entourage then left the meeting.

Minutes after the embarrassing incident, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, released the following response:

"The intervention of Sheikh Tayssir Attamimi was not scheduled by the organizers of the meeting. In a meeting dedicated to dialogue this intervention was a direct negation of what a dialogue should be. We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Pope aiming at promoting peace and also interreligious dialogue, as he has clearly affirmed in many occasions during this pilgrimage. We hope also that interreligious dialogue in the Holy Land will not be compromised by this incident."

The Tourism and Foreign ministries also denounced Tamimi's remarks:

It is regrettable that Sheikh Tayssir Tamimi has abused an inter-religious meeting aimed at promoting dialogue and understanding between Christians, Jews and Muslims, in order to incite against Israel.

Minister Stas Misezhnikov, charged with the pope's visit to Israel, stated:

"The sheikh's provocation hurt, first and foremost, Pope Benedict XVI who came to the Holy Land to promote peace and unity between the peoples of the region and all persons of faith. Israel condemns these words of hatred uttered by the sheikh, who instead of fostering peace and coexistence chose to plant seeds of division and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as between Jews, Muslims and Christians."

It is a shame that the extremists were those who represented the Palestinians and the Muslims in this important event in the presence of the Holy See. Coincidentally, this was the very same Sheikh who caused a similar disruption during an interfaith meeting attended by then-Pope John Paul II at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center in 2000.

Cindy Wooden and Judith Sudilovsky (Catholic News Service) recall the incident:

Nine years ago, one of Israel's chief rabbis made a speech in which he called Jerusalem Israel's "eternal undivided capital" and claimed the pope had recognized it as such. Sheik al-Tamimi got up and made a rebuttal, saying Jerusalem was Palestine's undivided capital and decrying Israel's occupation of the city.

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