Fearing Violence, Jewish Authorities Ask Catholics to Take Down Welcome Sign for Pope Francis

As Catholics gear up for the Pope’s planned trip to the Holy Land on May 25-26, authorities in Jerusalem–fearing attacks by Jewish extremists–have asked that a “Welcome” banner featuring Pope Francis be taken down.

Police and the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, have been concerned, according to Agence France-Presse, that Jewish extremists could increase attacks on Christian sites ahead of the pope’s arrival in an attempt to attract media attention.  In the face of roiling tensions, municipal officials felt it necessary to ask a Franciscan center just inside the Old City walls to take down a large “Welcome” banner with a message to Pope Francis written in English, Arabic and Hebrew.


The problem of anti-Christian and anti-Muslim vandalism in the Holy Land has been increasing.  In April I reported on an April 1 incident in which a Catholic monastery dedicated to Mary, Queen of Palestine, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, was vandalized.  Anti-Christian graffiti on the monastery walls said “Jesus is a monkey, Mary is a cow.”  At the same time, tires were slashed on five vehicles.

Vandalism at the Latrun Trappist monastery

Then, on April 3 in the Israeli town of Jish, a Maronite community near Safed in the north, the hate-filled message “Only non-Jews should be removed from our country” was painted on the walls.  Forty vehicles had their tires slashed.

My earlier article details multiple similar incidents of vandalism, called “price-tag” attacks, on the part of Jewish extremist groups.


Several Christian churches–a total of 14 in the past year, according to Reuters–have been defaced.

And a death threat has been painted in Hebrew on East Jerusalem’s Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center, the site where Pope Francis is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



A policeman passes a church on which a “Price tag” message reads “King David King of the Jews and Jesus is junk”

UPI reported on a mass protest on Monday, May 12, when more than 200 Orthodox Jews gathered in Jerusalem.  Rabbis with loudspeakers led prayers.

They were protesting Pope Francis’ planned visit to the Cenacle, the site believed to be the location of Jesus’ Last Supper.  That site atop Mount Zion is also the tomb of Jewish King David, as well as a 16th century mosque.  According to claims by the Orthodox Jews, Christian prayer at the building, outside the fortress walls of the city, is in conflict with Orthodox Jewish teachings.

Rabbi Avraham Goldstein said,

“Under Jewish law it is a big problem.  Basically they (Christians) are taking over the place.”


Latin Patriarch Twal

Pope Francis has a supporter, though, in Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, the highest western Christian authority in Jerusalem.

Patriarch Twal held a press conference in which he addressed the problem of anti-Christian sentiment.  Images of Pope Francis were being displayed in Jerusalem, said Patriarch Twal, just as they are throughout the rest of the world, to welcome the pope during his visit.  In Israel, Patriarch Twal added, it’s common to put up pictures of athletes and soccer players when they visit; and he asked why there should be such criticism over pictures of the Pope.

At his press conference, Patriarch Twal criticized the official non-response to these attacks:

“It damages, of course, the democracy that Israel purports itself to uphold…. The attacks have been met with only verbal condemnation from Israeli leaders and very few arrests.  All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

  • $97155992

    is what the Lord Jesus told the Jews: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the
    prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered
    your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you
    would not! 38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. 39 For I tell you,
    you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name
    of the Lord.’” (cf Matthew 23)
    Meaning no single Jew will see the Lord Jesus unless he or she accepts that
    “Stone which the builders rejected” (cf Psalm 118 v 22-26)
    Now ask yourselves why did we (Catholics) stop praying for the conversion of
    the Jews to the true Faith, in the last half century?

    • Cynthia Kron

      You make a good point here, but I would say that “no single Jew” isn’t quite accurate. I say that as a Jewish convert who knows other Jewish converts. I think it’s more of a corporate thing. :)

      • Mike

        Can i ask you how you came to consider the Catholic Church? What i mean is did you grow up secular or religious?

        • Cynthia Kron

          Very long story as to why Catholic, no room here. ;) Raised conservative Jewish but was functionally somewhere between agnostic and atheist until 8 years ago.

          • Mike

            Interesting thanks. I was ag/atheist until my late 20s but was basically raised non-religious/cafe catholic.

          • Cynthia Kron

            Hi again Mike — apologies for my prior post’s brevity, was posting from my smartphone. I recently wrote a short piece that tells a little bit about my conversion. A handful of friends have read it and have really liked it. It isn’t online yet but should be posted in the next week or so by a friend of mine who is a Catholic blogger. I will come back here and give you the link once it’s published. If you don’t hear from me in this comments box in the next few weeks, please ping me to remind me. Thanks!

          • Mike

            That would be great…thanks, i am looking forward to it…i’ll try to remember to check back.


          • Cynthia Kron

            Mike, here is the link. It was published more quickly than I thought!


          • Mike

            Thanks i just read it. A similar thing happened to me. I was an agnostic indulgent late 20 something secular type when i picked up Practicing Catholic by Carroll in the bookstore bc it sounded like it would be about what it’s like to be a practicing catholic. But if you know anything about the author you know that it wasn’t about the RCC but about his personal feelings about it. Page after page i read the most strident accusations, condemnations until finally, when my curiosity had peaked, i decided to put it down and find out if the things he was saying were true. Well that’s how it started; now i go to church every Sunday. It’s the Dawkins effect: if you push too hard in one direction you turn ppl off. Same thing happened issue by issue: miracles are for idiots; there is no meaning in the universe or purpose; science had disproven God; condoms cure all stds and increase sexual responsibility; abortion is popping a pimple; children don’t need a mom and dad; and on and on and on. It was admittedly a tough slog and along the way we lost a couple of dear friends who had gone in the other direction. But overall it’s been fascinating as i am sure you know. Oh no surprise here but honestly reading Chesterton had a great influence on me; as did Lewis and Kreeft. Anyway all the best and thanks for sharing.

          • $97155992

            Cynthia, you are covered. fully covered. Like us, you have already accepted the -Stone which the builders rejected; … it is marvelous in our eyes; it is the Lord’s doing.
            By the way, my favorite people are mostly (~90%) Jewish e.g Jesus, Mary, Peter, Paul etc.
            If you are still curious, here is the God that Catholics serve:

  • April Spring

    Once people are educated to the truth of the Catholic theology, then we will have peace.
    But it is up to us Christians to show the world the beauty and logic of the Catholic faith.
    Today is good day for a riddle!


    How can wisdom be a tree?

    For how can a tree transmit wisdom?
    And how can wisdom bring forth the fruit of everlasting life?

    For a mysterious riddle was written:
    “Wisdom is a Tree of Life…”- Proverbs 3:18

    “He will search out the hidden meanings of proverbs, and will be
    conversant in the secrets of parables.” – Sirach 39:3

    To answer this riddle go to:


  • Mary E.

    Wherever the Pope travels, someone is bound to disagree with, resent, and even fear his visit, even to the point of anger. Some places will engender more angry responses than other places, It is sad that Jerusalem is one of those places, but the only alternatives would be either to cancel the event at the Cenacle, or to cancel the visit to Israel altogether, and both of those alternatives are unacceptable. I am not trying to minimize the possible dangers, but I feel confident that the Israeli authorities and the Vatican staff are well aware of the possibilities, and will take suitable precautions.

    • kathyschiffer

      Mary, did you hear that the Pope refuses to ride in a bullet-proof car? He is thwarting efforts to keep him safe.

      • Mary E.

        Oh yes, and his security staff is mightily challenged, for sure. In fact, I will remember to pray for them when I pray for the Pope. I hope he will at least ride in the open-air wagon/truck with the bulletproof glass on tne front and sides.

  • JohnServorum

    In the early 1900′s the Christian population of the Middle East was 26% of the total population. Now it is only 9% and it is dwindling in proportion to other religious groups.
    There will come a time when there are relatively few Christians left, only Jews and Muslims. What will become of the Middle East then?

  • MairinT

    Israel is not a democratic country. Unfortunately the Jewish people have become obnoxious and domineering, even smug. Well, they do not have many friends in the world so they would be wise to respect their Christian brothers and sisters – they might need them again some day soon. Considering Pope Pius XII saved more Jews than anyone else in the world during WWII and Pope John Paul II saved numerous Jews during Nazi occupation of Poland – they should hold the office of Papacy in very high esteem.

  • mike

    Have you ever thought that calling Mary the “Queen of Palestine” when there is NEVER any mention of Palestine in the bible and that most of those for a Palestinian state hate Israel would leave an unease towards so-called Christians? And what about the almost two thousand years of “Christian” (mainly RCC) persecution of the Jews? Wouldn’t that leave you uneasy towards so-called Christians if you were a son of Jacob? (Do NOT get me wrong, the insults to Yeshua (Jesus) are atrocious and blasphemous, and I don’t respect those insults by any means.)