BREAKING: Israel Issues Restraining Orders to Protect Pope Francis During His Visit

Israel has clamped down on potential troublemakers in the days leading up to Pope Francis’ historic visit to the Holy Land on May 24-26.

According to a report released today by Reuters, Israeli police and the Shin Bet internal security service handed restraining orders to several Jewish right-wing activists whom they believed intended to cause “disruptions during the pope’s visit and be involved in provocative illegal acts.”

I wrote earlier about the “price-tag” vandalism by Jewish extremists; and yesterday, I interviewed a Catholic friend traveling in the Holy Land, Cecilia Lakin.

The Cenacle, believed to be the site of Jesus’ Last Supper

The restraining orders issued today will bar activists from certain areas, such as the area surrounding the Cenacle–which is believed to be the site of the Last Supper, and which some Jewish activists believe to be the burial site of King David.

According to the Financial Times, another major protest had been planned for May 22, just before the pope’s visit.  Today’s restraining order will hopefully prevent this protest and will remain in effect for four days, long enough to ensure that Pope Francis’ visit is not interrupted by violence or protests.

According to a report released this afternoon:

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said three Jewish youths would be barred from Jerusalem starting on Saturday. Two of the youngsters, it said, were students at a seminary near the Cenacle in Jerusalem, the traditional site of Jesus’s Last Supper where the pope will celebrate a Mass.

Haaretz reported last week that Israeli security services feared that Jewish radicals might carry out a major hate crime against the Christian population or institutions to drum up media attention during the Pope’s pilgrimage.

Last week, “price-tag” graffiti was painted on an outer column at the Office of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.  The graffiti, written in Hebrew, translated:

“Death to Arabs and Christians and all those who hate Israel.”

The Notre Dame Center, which is Vatican property, is the location of a planned liturgy and a meeting between Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The two will meet on May 26, the last day of the pope’s trip.

Pope Francis remains adamant in his refusal to utilize a bulletproof vehicle–preferring to use a normal car so that he can be as close to people as possible.

The last time a Catholic pope visited the Holy Land was in 2009, when Pope Benedict made the journey.  According to The Economist, Pope Benedict ‘s remarks at that time were received with disappointment.  According to The Economist:

“When Pope Benedict trod the same ground in 2009, he somewhat disappointed his hosts by referring to ‘millions’ of deaths in the Holocaust (rather than the precise figure of 6m) and speaking of the Shoah as “tragedy” rather than a crime. That gives some idea of the intense scrutiny to which Pope Francis’s every word and gesture will be subjected.” 

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 UPDATE:  This has turned into a series, as guest blogger Cia Lakin, on the ground in the Holy Land, promises to keep us informed regarding the politics and the people involved in Pope Francis’ historic visit.
Read about efforts to keep the Holy Father safe here.
And read the ecumenical events scheduled during the visit here.


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