PA Sheikh Interrupts Pope

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian Authority Taysir al-Tamimi, head of the PA's Sharia (Islamic) Courts, interrupted the Pope on Monday evening during a meeting of religious leaders at the Notre Dame Hotel in east Jerusalem.

Meeting participants included members of Israel's Chief Rabbinate; Cardinal Tarkisio Bertoni, state secretary of the Vatican; and Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, among others.

After opening remarks, Twal asked the Pope to address the meeting.

But al-Tamimi interrupted with a six-minute speech demanding that the Pope stop "crimes of the Jewish state."

"Israel destroyed our home, exiled our people, built settlements, ruined the Muslim holy sites, and slaughtered women, children and senior citizens in Gaza," al-Tamini said in Arabic, enjoying a round of applause from some of the participants.

Ignoring calls to sit down, he continued accusing Israel of "destroying Palestinian cities and erecting settlements on Palestinian land."

The sheikh also called on everyone "to defend the Palestinians and their land," while

naming Jerusalem as "the Palestinian people's capital."

Al-Tamini shook hands with the Pope after he finished, and the Pope left the room immediately afterward.

Israel's Foreign Ministry and Tourism Ministry issued a joint statement condemning the outburst.

"Israel condemns these words of hatred uttered by the sheikh, who instead of fostering peace and coexistence, chose to plant seeds of division and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians and between Jews, Muslims and Christians," the statement read.

Spokesman for the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, also denounced the speech.

"The speech by Sheikh Taysir Tamimi was not scheduled by the organizers of the meeting," Lombardi said.

"In a meeting dedicated to dialogue, this intervention was a direct negation of what a dialogue should be. We hope that such an incident will not damage the mission of the Pope, aimed at promoting peace and also inter-religious dialogue," he said.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news

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