Churches in Holy Land condemn violence at funeral of slain journalist

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III, the bishops and the faithful of the Christian communities underscore in a common statement their condemnation of a violent intrusion carried out last Friday by the Israeli police in the funeral procession carrying the body of reporter, Shireen Abu Aqleh.

By Giancarlo La Vella

The incident took place as Shireen Abu Aqleh’s coffin was being transported from St. Joseph’s Hospital to the Greek-Melkite Cathedral Church. The denunciation of the Churches in the Holy Land issued with a common statement decried the attitude of the Israeli police, who broke into the hospital, “disrespecting the memory of the deceased and forcing the pallbearers almost to drop the coffin.” 

The condemnation follows that already expressed by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, after news of the death of the reporter, who worked for the Al Jazeera television network. Shireen Abu Aqleh was shot in the head during an operation by the Israeli security forces in the city ​​of Jenin, in the West Bank. Guterres called for an independent investigation to clarify the facts of what happened.

A grave violation of human rights

“The Israeli Police’s invasion and disproportionate use of force,” the statement reads, “attacking mourners, striking them with batons, using smoke grenades, shooting rubber bullets, frightening the hospital’s patients, is a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, which must be observed also in a public space.”

Renewed commitment to healing

“The St. Joseph Hospital has always proudly been a place of encounter and healing for all, regardless of their religious or cultural belonging, and it intends to continue to be so,” the statement points out. The Church leaders conclude: “What happened last Friday deeply wounded not only the Christian community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, owner of the Hospital, and all the hospital staff, but also all peoples who in that place have found and still find peace and hospitality. The Sisters and the staff of St. Joseph Hospital will keep their commitment to be a place of healing. The tragic episode of last Friday makes this commitment even stronger than ever.”

Mourners carry the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh outside St. Joseph Hospital

Mourners carry the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh outside St. Joseph Hospital