Israelis Block Patriarch Sabbah at Tel Aviv Airport
Latin-rite Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem was unable to leave Tel Aviv airport on Friday because of a security search he was subjected to by Israeli officials.
The Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano reported that the search was a violation of the respect due to a Vatican diplomatic passport, which the patriarch showed at the airport.
Patriarch Sabbah, who was travelling to Rome for a weekend conference on religion and peace, was stopped at Ben Gurion airport and submitted to what he considered "excessive and unjustified" security measures.
The Jerusalem patriarchate reported that security officials refused to honour the Patriarch's diplomatic passport, and insisted on a careful examination of his luggage. Rather than accept a search that he considered a violation of his rights, the Patriarch chose to return to Jerusalem.
Israeli officials denied the complaint, saying that the Latin-rite prelate had been subject only to "normal" security procedures, "to which all passengers, including diplomats, are subject."
The Italian newspaper Avvenire considered the search a violation of the fundamental 1993 agreement between the Vatican and the state of Israel, which provides for the safeguarding by the Israeli state of the freedom necessary for pastors of the Catholic Church to carry out their mission.
Zenit/Catholic World News
Latin Patriarch abandons trip after 'exaggerated' security check (Ha'aretz)
Give peace a chance, world religions say (Reuters)
21 Jan 2003