Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.
In the last few weeks there have been rumors, reports, denials and discussions about the Vatican’s seat in Mount Zion (the Christian Cenacle and David’s Tomb lie in the same structure).
I have been quoted as one of the sources on this agreement. According to my sources, this agreement will be different from that emerged in the previous 14 years of talks.
There have been many versions of this deal. In 2005 then Israel's President Moshe Katzav nearly gave the structure in Mount Zion to the Catholic Church, while Israel would have gained control of the Santa Maria la Blanca Church, a synagogue in Toledo, Spain, which was converted into a church 500 years ago, after the Jews were killed by the Spanish Inquisition.
Katsav and Pope Benedict XVI went very close to announce the real estate deal during a meeting in Rome. It didn’t happen because of Jewish activism. Even then, the Foreign Ministry labeled the story as “nonsense”.
The current agreement gives the Pope a “special authority” over the second floor of the building in Mount Zion, so that Christian pilgrims will be able to celebrate religious functions as Pope John Paul did in 2000.
The Vatican also asked Israel to allow the Church to build a passageway through the adjoining Diaspora Yeshiva and to enable thousands of worshipers to access the Last Supper Room more easily. We don’t know yet if this will happen.
Under the current deal, the site will be administered by the Franciscan order, but ownership will remain in Israel’s hands.
Father Athanasius Macora, secretary of the Franciscan commission monitoring holy sites, declared that “Franciscan control of the Last Supper room would open the site to regular Christian services, masses and other ceremonies”.
That is why Pope Francis will celebrate the mass in that site during his visit to Jerusalem at the end of the month. That is why the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, didn’t hold the mass there. Because now there is an agreement and in 2009 there was not.
Macora said it clearly: “If we get the place back, we would allow everyone to have access to it”.
The blueprint of the current agreement reads as follows: “The Vatican hands over this use of the Cenacle to the Custody of the Holy Land which will keep the Cenacle open from 6 AM to 8 AM for the celebration of the Holy Mass”. The Vatican will receive a “special seat”, a kind of civil administration. The Catholic Church want also to discuss properties on Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives. Don’t forget that the Vatican ambassador's residence is at the foot of the Mount of Olives.
Time is running out. If the deal will be stopped, it will be also be because of our reporting. Otherwise, the Jews must be prepared for hard times.
Don’t forget that the Cenacle was previously a synagogue and that the Vatican today works to reduce Jewish rights in Jerusalem allied with the Islamic Wakf.
I have done my best on Arutz Sheva to expose what is going on.