Irish Church Leaders told to remove crucifixes

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Irish religious leaders visiting the Middle East were unable to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem this morning after a security official at the checkpoint ordered them to remove their crucifixes from around their necks and leave them at the checkpoint if they wanted to go down and pray at the Western Wall.

The local bishop accompanying the delegation, Dr Munib Younan, told the officials the request was a breach of a protocol agreed between the Israeli government, the Christian leadership in the city and the Jewish Rabbinate, and that it would be a humiliation if the church Leaders had to remove their crucifixes in order to go down and pray at the wall. There was a discussion for some time. The security official at the checkpoint confirmed with his superiors and returned and ordered the Church leaders to remove their crucifixes if they were to go to visit the Western Wall.

Dr Munib Younan, then told the Israeli soldier that this was a humiliation for the church leaders and we cannot undergo this humiliation for our Bishops and Church Leaders from Ireland to undergo this humiliation, so the Bishops turned away bearing with them the prayer that they had written out and which read:

" On our pilgrimage of Hope and peace, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem" signed by, The Primate of the Catholic Church, The Primate of the Church of Ireland, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church and the President of the Methodist Church.

The matter was expected to be discussed later between the Church leaders and Israeli officials at a scheduled meeting at the Israeli Ministry of foreign Affairs including their Religious Affairs Department.