Franciscan says forgive Nazareth Basilica attack

The Custos of the Holy Land said Christians must forgive the family that set off firecrackers inside the Nazareth Basilica of the Annunciation that prompted protests and left a dozen people injured.

Catholic News Service reports that Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa told a news conference: "Nothing can justify what they did ... they are unfortunate individuals ... but what we need (is) to look forward, and we as Christians have to forgive".

"This hurts us, but we are not holding a grudge. As religious Christians we must deliver a message of peace", he said.

Father Pizzaballa, who is in charge of Christian sites in the Holy Land, spoke and issued a statement 6 March after a brief meeting with Haim and Violet Habibi and their 20-year-old daughter, Odelia, who were remanded into police custody shortly after the attacks.

The Habibis hugged and kissed Father Pizzaballa and asked for his help - and that of the pope - in getting their three minor children back; their youngest was removed from their home the week of the Basilica incident.

The three had entered the church with a baby carriage under the guise of pilgrims and set off a dozen firecrackers as local Christians were processing during the Way of the Cross.

Photos taken by the Franciscans in Nazareth confirmed that the Habibis also had taken in detonators and small canisters of gas, said the statement from Father Pizzaballa.

Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto-Boulous Marcuzzo of Jerusalem and Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour of Akko, Israel, calmed the tempers of the massive number of youths who had gathered outside the Basilica immediately after the attack.

The bishops were seen walking through the crowd with loudspeakers, pleading for restraint. Dozens of local residents could be seen trying to separate angry Nazareth residents from police sent to safely remove the Habibis.

Thirteen policemen and 13 civilians were injured in riots following the attack, and four cars were set alight by the angry mob. One witness said the firecrackers left some blackened spots on the wall of the Basilica.

Israeli authorities note that the family has been known to social welfare workers for about 12 years. It appears the attack was motivated by the family's latest child custody battle with the Israeli authorities.

Franciscan says Christians must forgive after Nazareth incident (Catholic News Service 7/3/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

Nazareth Basilica attack not political (CathNews 6/3/06)

Patriarch Calls Christians in Holy Land to Solidarity (Zenit 7/3/06)
Custos Forgives Family That Attacked Basilica (Zenit 7/3/06)
What happened in Nazareth: the Custodian's account (AsiaNews.it 7/3/06)
Church leaders protest, seek calm after attack on Nazareth basilica (Catholic News Service 6/3/06)
Jerusalem: Lenten message from Latin Patriarch (Independent Catholic News 7/3/06)
Nazareth, couple responsible for attack at the Basilica asks to be forgiven (AsiaNews.it 6/3/06)
Holy Land: couple apologises for attack on church in Nazareth (Independent Catholic News 6/3/06)
Israelis Apologize for Blasts in Basilica (Zenit 5/3/06)

9 Mar 2006