Jerusalem — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the vandalism of seven graves at the Salesians of Don Bosco Beit Jamal monastery outside of Jerusalem and called for more education for respect toward people of different religious backgrounds.
"We condemn this incident and remind all that this is not the first of its kind committed in recent years," the patriarchate said in a Jan. 9 statement. "We do hope that more efforts [will] be made to educate all inhabitants of the country to respect each other despite their different religious backgrounds."
The statement noted that similar desecrations took place at the cemetery in September 1981 and March 2014 and urged the police to and Israeli authorities to "invest every possible effort to bring those responsible for these desecrations to justice as soon as possible."
The toppled crosses were discovered just before Christmas Eve and reported to the police, but the monks decided to wait until after the holiday to release the information to the general public, Salesian Fr. Antonio Scudu, former monastery superior, told Catholic News Service.
"You can imagine how we feel. We pray to God. We don't do any harm to anyone. We don't deserve this. Our dead don't deserve this," he said.
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Following the 1981 incident, the monks had replaced the destroyed wooden crosses with concrete crosses in the hopes that they would be harder to damage, Scudu said. Police are investigating the incident, but the cemetery is several yards away from the monastery and has no surveillance cameras, making the investigation more difficult, he added.
"We have good relations with our neighbors around here," he said. "On Saturdays our monastery is full of Jewish visitors, also the ultra-Orthodox come to visit. We answer their questions. We have no enemies. The police are investigating but I don't know if they will catch anyone."
Over the past four years, there have been numerous acts of vandalism against Muslim and Christian religious and holy places as well as Jewish holy sites, and a Jewish holy site in Nablus, West Bank, was set afire in October. On Jan. 3 three Jewish extremists were indicted for a February 2015 arson attack on the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem.