Bishop Giancito-Boulos Marcuzzo, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supports the proposal made by the patriarchs and heads of the Churches of the Holy Land in their Christmas declaration which calls for the constitution of a “special zone.”
This is necessary to preserve the Christian presence, protect the status quo [a term for the relations between the various occupants of the holy places], and defend the universality of the city.
Safeguarding the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem is crucial to “maintain the presence” of its residents and the status quo, which protects Christians, Jews, and Muslims at the same time, says Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, former Latin rite Patriarchal Vicar of Jerusalem.
Always active on the pastoral level, the prelate expressed his support for the request recently formulated by the patriarchs and heads of the Churches of the holy city in a Christmas declaration.
“We are in favor of this call but doubts remain that it will be taken into account by the Israeli authorities,” said the bishop, who has lived in the area for decades and knows it very well.
The statement was made public on Monday. Christian leaders in Jerusalem call for a dialogue on the creation of a “special zone” for the specific purpose of “safeguarding the integrity” of the Christian quarter of the old city.
The objective is to ensure its uniqueness and to preserve its heritage for the good “of the local community and our national life.” This declaration has become necessary after several recent episodes which constitute a “threat” to the presence of Christians.
Such a request has been made in the past by emissaries of the Vatican and by the Holy See, in order to guarantee the holy places of Jerusalem. It is also the way to protect believers from “unilateral” acts and from political acts of certain countries or local politico-religious groups which could upset the balance.
The declaration expresses particular concerns about the “acts of radical Jewish nationalist groups,” which seek to reduce the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem through “the purchase of Palestinian homes.”
The Christian presence and the status quo are “challenged daily” by “physical and legal attacks” with the aim of appropriating the ownership of houses and goods “in the Muslim and Christian parts” of Jerusalem, explains Bishop Marcuzzo .
“This frightens us because it endangers national cohesion itself,” noted the prelate. “Israel is and must be open, universal, but if it turns in on itself, in small ghettos dominated by local authorities,” it will be a defeat for all.
For Msgr. Marcuzzo, the danger is constituted by “radical” and fanatic groups who attack the regular celebrations or even the displacements in certain parts of the city. Recently, Armenian monks have been targeted by such groups.
“The meaning of this special zone is precisely to prevent the territory from losing its population” because, in the long run, “people get tired of harassment and ill-treatment.” Another objective is to put an end to “unequal treatment and illegality.”
Speaking of inequality, the prelate criticizes Israeli authorities who “grant entry permits to American Jews” but ban others because of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, as is the case with Christian pilgrims on the occasion of Christmas.