Blessed Pope Urban II spoke these words in the year 1095 and, by the time he had finished speaking, all of Europe was rallying to do battle with the Turk. Christian knights hailed the Pope’s resounding order: “Mark out a path all the way to the Holy Sepulchre and snatch the Holy Land from that abominable people.”
This month, with Urban II and the Crusades nearly nine centuries behind us, Catholics will be asked to recall once again those sacred Palestine places where Jesus spent His Holy Week of suffering and death, and triumphed on His Easter Sunday morning. But this time there will be no talk of “snatching” the Holy Land. Indeed, we have been quite content, of late, to settle back and watch someone else grab it up. Nor have we been even slightly jarred from our lethargy by the fact that the Holy Land’s new occupants make Pope Urban’s “abominable” Mohammedans almost bearable by contrast.
That the state of Israel is now a reality, that the Holy Land has fallen into the hands of the Jews, that the crucifiers of Christ have been restored with honor to the scene of their crime, should be provocation enough for all of Christendom to descend in battle array and obliterate the cursed invaders. But nothing happens. In fact, this tragic betrayal of the Holy Places has been allowed to develop far beyond the mere physical presence of Jews in Palestine. For every day it is becoming clearer just what the Jews have done, and will continue to do, to Catholic churches, shrines, schools, hospitals, seminaries, and even the Catholic faithful, in the land which they have usurped.
We know that there will be no twentieth-century Crusade, for we know that Christendom has all but died. Still, we are heartened by those few Catholic voices who have made protest: the half-dozen bishops, the handful of priests, and the one courageous Franciscan brother. From the documented, on-the-scene reports which these men have made (and which have been so notably ignored by America’s Jewish-controlled press) The Point hopes to indicate, this Eastertime, just what has been going on in Our Lord’s Holy Land since His enemies took it over.
On the slope of Mount Zion, not far from the site of the Last Supper, is a magnificent Romanesque rotunda called the Church of the Dormition (the “falling asleep”). And of all the shrines in Jerusalem, this one has always been especially, poignantly dear; for on this spot Our Blessed Lady spent her last years on earth, and here she died.
During the morning of May 18, 1948, Israeli troops, fighting to take Jerusalem from the Arabs, rushed upon the Church of the Dormition, crashed down the barricaded door, and entered in. The Benedictine monks in charge of the church were already aware of the Israelis’ reputation as despoilers of holy places, and they gathered in the sanctuary, hoping that their presence would serve to dampen Jewish ardor. Professing amusement at the monks’ concern, the Jewish officers assured them there was nothing to fear: they had not the slightest intention of using the Dormition for military purposes; they would merely like to be shown to the church’s towers, so as to observe Arab positions.
By sunset of that day, the Jews had set up artillery in the church, and were using it as their base of operations. After two weeks — during which they poured an incessant stream of mortar fire at the Arabs, and the Arabs answered in kind — the Israeli officers decided that the monks, “for their own safety,” should retire to another part of the city. Reluctantly, they allowed three monks to remain behind as custodians of the church.
Almost immediately, these three were informed that they could go out of their underground rooms only with the permission, and under the surveillance, of an armed guard. When the monks protested against such restrictions, and demanded the Jews withdraw from the church immediately, to prevent further damage, the Jewish officers calmly assured them they would depart as soon as practicable. Meantime, they were told, they could put their minds at rest: orders had been given to the soldiers to guard carefully property belonging to the church, particularly the sacred objects.
Suddenly, on July 15, two months after the Jews first entered the Dormition, the three monks who remained there were instructed by Israeli officers to leave at once. All money was taken from them, and when they asked to make a listing of items being left in the church, they were told they could not.
Shortly after the last monks moved out, the Church of the Dormition became a Jewish dance hall, where each night the young men and women of Hagannah, weary from the day’s fighting, met for recreation.
It was September before any priests were again able to enter the church. What they found when they looked inside stunned them. The statues, the pictures, the crucifixes, the altars, the whole interior, had been thoroughly, painstakingly desecrated and destroyed.
These priests issued a report for the Catholic press of all they had witnessed, “lest responsible persons be deceived by propaganda.” And their summary of what had happened to the cherished and once-beautiful shrine of the Mother of God, after four months of Jewish occupation, was the following stark announcement: “the Church of the Dormition is now a heap of rubble.”
Throughout the Holy Land, the remnants of churches, chapels, and shrines give eloquent testimony of the Jews’ vengeful, ferocious hatred of their rejected Messias. Among these remnants are the great Church of Saint Peter, at Tiberias; the Church of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, at Am Karim; the Church of the Beatitudes, at Capharnaum; the Church of Mensa Christi, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; and in Jerusalem, close by the Church of the Dormition, the Cenacle — where, the night before He was betrayed into the hands of the Jews, Jesus, at the Last Supper, gave us His Body and Blood to be our Sacrifice, our Sacrament and our Food.
Just outside the walled inner city of Jerusalem, at New Gate, there stands the Convent and Hospice of Notre Dame. This consecrated building was one of the first pieces of Church property seized by the new Israeli government. Jewish officials had determined that the structure was ideally suited for use as a barracks to house Israeli soldiers. The convent’s chapel became a kind of general recreation room for the new occupants and, when members of the Franciscan Commissariat of the Holy Land finally managed to visit the confiscated building, they found the chapel in total desecration. The chief objects for the hatred of the Jewish soldiers had been the large brass crucifixes used for Mass. A report issued from Jerusalem states that the representations of Our Lord’s Holy Body had been pried loose from all the crucifixes and that “the bare crosses were scattered about the chapel, covered with human excrement.”
This early-established policy toward religious houses continued with the Jewish seizure and desecration of the Sisters’ convent at Am Karim, the Franciscan convent at Tiberias, the Sisters’ residence at Capharnaum, the Salesian houses at Cremisan, the convent of the Sisters of Saint Ann at Haifa, the home of the Fathers of the Italian Institute at Capharnaum, the Patriarchal Seminary at Beit-Jala, and the Convent of Mary Reparatrix at Jerusalem, which was blasted by dynamite in the middle of the night while six Sisters were known to be still inside.
Shortly after the first Israeli troops arrived in the little town of Kasamon, near Jerusalem, some of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion, who conducted the English High School there, were looking out the school windows with their students. Suddenly they saw Israeli soldiers in the streets outside raise their rifles. Aghast, Sisters and students dropped to the floor. A moment later, the windows where they had been standing were spattered with bullet holes.
The Sister Superior’s anxious protests to the local Israeli commander were met with his unctuous assurances that no more such episodes would occur. Soon afterwards, a detachment of Jewish soldiers, looking for amusement, shot up the school bus.
Finally, after three harrowing months of trying to live in an area ruled by Jews, the Sisters sent their pupils home and closed the school. Before leaving for Jerusalem, they nailed a large Papal flag across the front door, as notice to the Israelis that this building belonged to the Catholic Church.
The next word the Sisters received from Katamon informed them that a band of soldiers, Israeli regulars, had broken into the school, defiled its sacred objects, and left it ruined.
“I wish to protest with all possible energy against this complete lack of honor,” wrote the Sister Superior to the government of Israel. “The commander of the area of Katamon gave me his word that nothing would be touched ... I do not know when the pillage was committed, for I have not been in Katamon since May 3. However, it proves to me that your repeated promises are only empty words, which one cannot believe.”
Catholic authorities have estimated that the Jews have destroyed Church property in the Holy Land at the rate of more than two million dollars’ worth a year. To mention only French Catholic institutions, they have demolished four hospitals, sixteen dispensaries, two hospices, four seminaries, thirty-two schools and orphanages, seven retreat houses. And what the Jews have not destroyed outright they have gotten rid of in other ways. Thus, they have commandeered the four principal Catholic schools in Jerusalem, turning them into a Jewish food control office, a Jewish refugee home, a Jewish hospital, and a barracks for Jewish soldiers.
So extensive is the damage inflicted by the Jews, that two American Franciscan priests, sent to Jerusalem as official Catholic observers, reported, “There seems to be an over-all plan gradually to replace Catholic institutions.”
As part of a program to find “accommodations” for its influx of Jewish colonizers, the government of Israel has managed to bring about the dismemberment and evacuation of all Catholic regions in the Holy Land. Before the formation of the Israeli state, Palestine was in no sense a Christian-populated country. And yet, because the chief targets for Jewish aggression have been so consistently the Catholic towns and villages, nearly twenty per cent of the Arabs kicked out of their ancient homes have been Christians.
To date, close to a million Arab refugees have been stripped of everything they possess by way of home, land, savings, business, and, often, even family. Reports from Catholics in Lebanon, just north of the Holy Land, tell of dusty roads choked with the exodus of Galilee Arabs, mothers with breast-fed babies, orphaned children, dazed fathers, many of whom were carrying cherished crucifixes and other holy objects which, at great risk, they had rescued from Jewish desecration as they left their looted homes.
A communique from Brother Anthony Bruya, O. F. M., on the plight of the town of Rameh, bears vivid witness to the special hatred which has been shown to Catholics in the Holy Land. Israeli forces occupied Rameh, a two-thirds Christian community, and while permitting the Mohammedan Arabs to stay, ordered all Catholics to “leave within half an hour.” To back up the order, the Israeli commander reminded the Christian townspeople of what had happened to the residents of Deir Assin and Tireh — who were massacred in the streets for daring to question the authority of a Jewish army leader.
Similar atrocities have taken place in Haifa, Sheframr, Maslia, Tarshiha, and a hundred other places. But perhaps the most touching and tragic report is the one dated January 15, 1952, in which Archbishop George Hakim of Galilee protested in vain to the Israeli government over the mass destruction of the totally Catholic village of Ikret. Church, schools, rectory, homes — everything was in shambles. And what is more, wrote the Archbishop, the Jews perpetrated all this on Christmas Day itself.
The assault on Ikret, like all the rest of Israel’s anti-Catholic outrages, was in no sense an “unavoidable casualty” of the recent Jewish-Arab warfare. All of the first-hand Catholic observers are quick to make this point. Indeed, in his summary report on the Holy Land situation, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Hughes, has very plainly charged that there is now in operation a “deliberate Jewish effort to decimate the Arabs and to destroy Christianity in Palestine.”