FLASH: Pope Benedict walks out on Sheikh as he attacks Israel in unplanned speech
Rabby Shaer Yashuu Cohen, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Fouad Twal and Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi attend a meeting of representatives of the organizations for the interreligious dialogue in the Notre Dame Jerusalem Centre in Jerusalem on May 11, 2009. Tamimi, a senior Palestinian Muslim cleric, fiercely denounced Israeli policy in Jerusalem in the presence of Pope Benedict on Monday and appealed to the pope to help end what he called the "crimes" of the Jewish state.
From the Jerusalem Post, this just hit the wire in the last hour (bolding mine):
Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, launched a poisonous verbal attack at Israel at a Monday night gathering attended by Pope Benedict XVI.
In a meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, Tamimi called upon Muslims and Christians to unite against what he said were the murderous Israelis.
Taking the podium after the pope without being on the original list of speakers scheduled for the evening, Tamimi, speaking at length in Arabic, accused Israel of murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital.
Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises. Army Radio reported that the pope shook Tamimi's hand before walking out.
Minutes after the embarrassing occurrence, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, released a response to the incident.
"The intervention of Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi was not previewed by the organizers of the interreligious meeting that took place at Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem," the message read. "In a meeting dedicated to dialogue, this intervention was a direct negation of what [it] should be," it continued.
"We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Holy Father aiming at promoting peace and interreligious dialogue, as he has clearly affirmed in many occasions in this pilgrimage," Father Lombardi added.
"We hope also that interreligious dialogue in the holy land will not be damaged by this incident," the message concluded.
Nine years ago, Tamimi caused a similar scandal when at an interfaith meeting attended by then-Pope John Paul II at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, the Palestinian religious leader condemned Israel for a long list of offenses.
My kibitz: Pope Benedict is a model of Catholic dialogue. Evidently there are some cases of "dialogue" that are actually "false dialogue". If Pope Benedict is willing to walk out of a dialogue he sees as unfruitful and even harmful, what should that tell us about avoiding situations of dialogue that contradict our Catholic principles?
Oh and PS ... the "Notre Dame Center"?!
update 2 - a testimony from someone claiming to have been in the audience, from my combox:
Whispers has also published coverage.
I was there, In ND of Jerusalem. It was very evident how Msgr. George got nervous when Tamimi stood up and approached the microphone... He initiated sayin to the Pope: "Welcome to Jerusalem, capital of Palestine"... so you can imagine the rest of the speech. His tone was very strong, not very friendly. At some point some people (I guess the arabic speakers) started to clap hands supporting him. The Pope's "nunzio", ambassador, in Israel, when directly to the podium to ask Tamimi to end his speech. He ended and walked in front of the Pope and gave him a very distant hand greeting. After that, the Pope left the place, and in the way he stopped to say something and goodbye to Tamimi.
update 3 - I've shut down comments on this post because of persistent trolling and anti-semitism. not cool. not allowed.
By the way, my one-stop source for news of the Pope's trip to the Holy Land is "Pope Benedict XVI in Israel and the Holy Land."
Labels: pope in holy land