Fuad Twal prepares to make his annual Christmas address in Jerusalem's old city on December 20, 2012
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal prepares to make his annual Christmas address at the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem's old city on December 20, 2012. He expressed "dismay" at a wave of attacks on local Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious sites over the past year. © Gali Tibbon - AFP
Fuad Twal prepares to make his annual Christmas address in Jerusalem's old city on December 20, 2012
AFP
Last updated: December 20, 2012

Top Holy Land Catholic expresses dismay at religious site attacks

The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Holy Land has expressed "dismay" at a wave of attacks on local Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious sites over the past year.

In his Christmas message, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, noted "an increase in a certain religious radicalism," with church data showing 25 acts of vandalism, arson and desecration of mosques, churches, synagogues and cemeteries since December 21, 2011.

"I reiterate my dismay at the desecration of churches, convents, synagogues and cemeteries that offends everyone," Twal said. "We must take out the evil at its root by educating our youth in all schools."

The most recent attack was discovered on December 12, after vandals sprayed anti-Christian graffiti on Jerusalem's Monastery of the Cross and at an Armenian cemetery overnight, in an apparent hate crime by Jewish extremists.

There have also been acts of arson and graffiti, including the painting of Nazi swastikas at synagogues, allegedly perpetrated by Muslims.

Repeated incidents of arson and anti-Islamic graffiti against mosques have been linked to the "price tag" campaign of Israeli extremists opposed to state moves to dismantle unauthorised settler outposts.

Of late they have become increasingly unrelated to any specific government measures.

Twal said that he had been "shaken" by last month's eight-day battle between Israeli forces and Gaza militants. About 170 Palestinians died, more than half of them civilians, as did six Israelis, four civilians and two soldiers.

He condemned continued Israeli limitations on the movement of goods and people in and out of the coastal strip.

"I went to Gaza on December 16," he said. "I denounce the severe restrictions that dehumanise the daily lives of 1.6 million people, that generate feelings of hatred and hostility towards Israel."

The patriarch also made mention of the conflict in Syria, which activists say has killed more than 43,000 people in 21 months.

"The joy of Christmas is overshadowed by the staggering violence in Syria," he said. "We are full of compassion for the victims."

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