[ Ed. note – Beit Jamal is a holy Christian site near the town of Beit Shemesh, just west of Jerusalem. The site consists of a Catholic monastery as well as a church, and is traditionally thought of as the burial place of St. Stephen, whose death by stoning is told of in the Book of Acts. This past Wednesday night, the church, known as St. Stephen’s Church, was vandalized. Below are two articles on the attack, one from the Jerusalem Post, the other from the Independent Catholic News Service. Apparently the site is on somebody’s hit list. Both articles make mention of previous attacks at the same location, the Jerusalem Post mentioning that the latest incident is the third in four years. ]
Israel: Vandals Desecrate Catholic Church
By Dan Bergin
On Wednesday, 20 September vandals broke into and desecrated St Stephen Church in Beit Gemal, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. A statue of the Virgin Mary and stained-glass windows depicting important passages in the life of Jesus were smashed.
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and Palestine, who visited the Church yesterday, said: “this is not only an act of vandalism but an action against the sacredness of the holy places and the faith of people.”
He added that “In the Holy Land, is a deep faith and culture. We must live together with the diversity of beliefs. It is absolutely necessary to accept others, to accept each other in our diversity.”
In mid-December 2015, the cemetery of the convent was vandalized and several wooden and concrete tomb crosses were smashed and broken.
In addition to its strong condemnation of this atrocious attack, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem affirms that education is the solution to inculcate respect for the religious and cultural differences of people.
The Council of Catholic Churches in Jerusalem, said in a press release, that it demands “the State of Israel, with all its institutions concerned, punish who were responsible for such acts because it could easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequences, which would be most unwelcome in the current tense religious climate.”
Catholic Monastery Near Jerusalem Vandalized for Third Time in 4 Years
For the third time in four years, the Beit Jimal Monastery, located adjacent to Beit Shemesh, has been vandalized.
According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, vandals on Wednesday night shattered stained-glass windows depicting passages from Jesus; destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary; and damaged furniture.
Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo, patriarchal vicar in Jerusalem, called for tolerance after deeming the ransacking “not only an act of vandalism, but an action against the sacredness of the holy places and the faith of people.”
“The Holy Land is deep [in] faith and culture,” Marcuzzo said in a Friday statement. “We must live together with the diversity of beliefs. It is absolutely necessary to accept others, to accept each other in our diversity.”
In a strongly worded statement, the Council of Catholic Churches in Jerusalem demanded the suspects be arrested and brought to justice.
“The State of Israel, with all its institutions concerned, [must] punish [those] who were responsible for such acts because it could easily lead to serious and unpredictable consequence, which would be most unwelcome in the current tense religious climate,” the council cautioned.
Police said an investigation has been opened into the incident.
The monastery was last vandalized in January of last year, when monks of the Salesian Order discovered dozens of cruciform tombstones knocked over.
In 2013, the same monastery was attacked with a firebomb, which caused minor damage, and the words “Price tag” were spray-painted on an exterior wall of the building.
The cemetery was desecrated in a similar incident in 1981.
Following the 2016 vandalism, the Latin Patriarchate called on police to do more to apprehend the suspects, who still have not been arrested.
“We condemn this incident, and remind all that this is not the first of its kind committed in recent years, most of which remain registered as if committed by ‘unknown assailants,’” the organization said at the time.