Tell it to the Vatican: Christianity is not land or shrine bound

When it comes to Vatican negotiations and property issues, Jewish Israel sort of feels like we’ve been there and done that here, here, here, here... wait, simply go to the search facility in the upper right -hand corner of this screen and search for “Vatican”. This writer has been addressing the issue of the Vatican’s designs on Mt. Zion since October 2005 when I penned “Vatican’t “, and it just won’t go away.

Mention Vatican property and tax issues in Israel and the subject of the Cenacle Shrine (Last Supper Room or Coenaculum) on Mt. Zion inevitably comes up, as evidenced by recent local and international headlines here, here, here, here and here.

So it was a little disconcerting to know that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, that great champion of interfaith cooperation and Christian rights in the Holy Land, was handling negotiations for Israel. Although, he clearly declared his intentions to “assert Israel's right to all parts of the King David's Tomb compound if the issue is raised during upcoming meetings at the Vatican.”

Well, according to YNET, it seems Daniel kept to his word, as their headlines on December 10th announced “Israel's talks with Vatican fail” . The report cited that “the failure mostly stems from disagreement in respect to the Vatican's demand for sovereignty at the Last Supper Room on Jerusalem's Mount Zion.” (hat tip to JI member Toby).

Meanwhile a December 11th joint Israel-Holy See statement described the most recent round of talks
between the two sides as being held in “an atmosphere of cordiality and mutual understanding”, with talks resuming on January 7th. (hat tip to JI member Yisrael).

How important is the Upper Room shrine to Christianity?

Ask a Jewish Knight

Well, if you ask a knighted Jew like Gary Krupp of Pave the Way Foundaton, he will tell you that the room above the traditional Tomb of King David is “one of the most important sites for Christianity… It’s where Jesus first broke the matzo that Christians remember at each Mass….The Catholic Church has owned it since the 11th century. They have a bill of sale...It only makes sense now that it goes back to Catholic jurisdiction.”

It’s Gary Krupp and his Pave the Way Foundation which has been acting as a facilitator in the Vatican – Israel property negotiations of the past few years. Acquiring the “Upper Room” for the Vatican has relentlessly remained high on his agenda, although his most recent literature places emphasis on the “use” of the shrine, “rather than any property turnover” :

“The Shrine has no religious significance to Jews but as the third most important shrine in Christianity, it's return for Christian use, will serve as an immeasurable gesture of good will to Christians around the World. Pave the Way has been suggesting, to Israeli government officials, to simply allow the use of the Shrine by the Christian world, rather then any property turnover.”

(By the way, that’s Daniel Ayalon pictured with the Gary Krupp - third row down on the right)

Ask a Catholic Cardinal

Just last week it was reported that Cardinal John Foley, the grand knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, delivered a speech at a conference at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo. In that speech he covers demographic issues and church history, but then it gets interesting. Foley essentially says that Christians are not land or shrine bound.

So any Jew who feels that Israel needs to relinquish property, give tax breaks, or offer tangible good-will gestures to the Roman Catholic Church should read some of Foley’s incredible remarks.

“Within a short time, early Christianity was a movement that didn’t have national or ethnic boundaries. In Christ, as St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” …

…“Christianity is not tied to geography. Another observation that may cause serious disagreement, Christianity has no ties to geography. Judaism is land-bound. Judaism is focused on one piece of land, the small strip of land, the Holy Land, because of the promise to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, because of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Judaism is land-bound; that's why the creation of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was so important to Jews everywhere…

...For Muslims, this [the top of the mount where centuries ago the Jewish temple stood] is the third most important place in the world. They are shrine-bound; Christianity is not. Jesus is not buried in the Holy Sepulchre. We are not tied to a place the way Jews and Muslims are…

There are no geographical imperatives to Christianity. We have historical roots in the Holy Land. There is no place so evocative to visit for a Christian as the Holy Land. The Holy Land is of immense symbolic importance. However, if it should happen that there be not one single Christian left in the Holy Land, it will not hurt Christianity fundamentally…”

If the Catholic church is so ethereal, Jewish Israel is not sure why property negotiations , or discussions over Mt. Zion are even necessary. Indeed, it seems the crux of the dispute is really about hundreds of millions of shekels of unpaid taxes which the Vatican owes the State of Israel.

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