Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vatican withdraws invitation to controversial Arab mayor after protest

In an update to yesterday's events, we learn that Mayor Mazen Ghanaim of Sakhnin confirmed that the invitation for the April 29 audience with Pope Benedict XVI was withdrawn by the Vatican, after Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov expressed his opposition, describing Ghanaim as a "terror supporter and warmonger."

A report from Catholic News Service provides further detail as to why the invitation was rescinded:

During the war in January between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Ghanaim created a stir when he praised Palestinian "martyrs" and declared, "Long live Palestine, whose capital is Jerusalem," at an anti-war demonstration.

In a brief statement to the press, Archbishop Antonio Franco, papal representative to Israel and the Palestinian territories, said it was a "pity to make such a controversy" over the issue of a general audience with the pope and he regretted that Pope Benedict was dragged into the polemics.

A local Christian source told Catholic News Service that the Vatican also was miffed at Ghanaim's claims that he had been invited to meet with the pope and discuss the status of Israeli Arabs prior to the papal visit.

"(Ghanaim) would have had the opportunity to shake the pope's hand and at best exchange a few words with him," said the source, adding that the papal audience had no connection to the pope's pilgrimage.


  1. This is a good development Christopher.

    I am a huge fan of you site, cross post you a great deal.

    Did you see Pamela Geller rail against the Pope for accepting and BRIEFLY donning a keffiya during a visit of Gazan Palestinian Catholics???

    I typically agree with her, but she went off the deep end.

    I left comments regarding the post.

  2. Carlos,

    Thanks you for bringing it to my attention; as you can see, I thought the incident warranted a full post. I think critics are justified in being concerned about the political implications of such 'photo ops' (even if the Pope was accepting a gift) but yes, some are quite over the top.

    And as usual, the tone and venom of some of the commentators speaks volumes.