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Franciscan official laments discrimination against Christians in Israel

Catholic World News - October 26, 2010

In a recent interview, the leading Franciscan in the Holy Land lamented the discrimination that Christians face in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In the latter, “there is a Muslim majority who find it increasingly difficult to take notice of Christians because they are always fewer, even in the areas that were traditionally Christian,” says Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custos of the Holy Land. At times, he adds, “the idea circulates that to be good patriots one must be Muslim.”

In Israel, “from the point of view of laws there is no discrimination; there are, however, in fact, inequalities of treatment, of approach, which particularly strike the Christian minority … There is a deep-rooted prejudice that was born and developed in the course of the centuries in Judaism in confrontations with Christianity for reasons that are known and that in Israel become tangible.”

Father Pizzaballa offered strong criticism to the proposed new loyalty oath to Israel, not as a state per se, but as a Jewish state. The oath would primarily affect Palestinian Muslims and Christians who wish to marry Palestinian Israeli citizens.

“It's an unjust law because in the Middle East, as also in Israel, the separation of state and Church doesn’t exist, and then in this very intricate identity complex it creates very strong and also unjust hardships, because it’s an injustice to make someone who is not a Jew declare fidelity to Jewish principles,” he said.

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