Arch of Titus shows Menorah pillaged
Arch of Titus shows Menorah pillaged Israel News Photo: (Wikimedia Commons)

Pro-Land of Israel activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir will roll out the red carpet for Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival – by pressing criminal charges against him.

As the Pope arrives in Israel on Monday, the activists will be at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, filing a criminal complaint in which the Pope tops the list of defendants.

The Temple in the future (Temple Institute website)

The criminal complaint details a record of treasures and possessions that belong to the Jewish People that are allegedly being held in the Vatican in Rome. Among the treasures claimed are vessels plundered from the Temple by the Romans under the command of then-general Titus, including the seven-branched golden Menorah.

The complainants write in the complaint that “The vessels were plundered and Titus who burned the Temple, took them to Rome.” They complain that in addition to the Menorah, other vessels were plundered, including the Laver Basin, the Table of the Showbread, the Golden Altar, the Copper Altar, and the Ornamental Curtain at the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The complainants claim that at least some of the vessels are still existent in the Vatican cellars in Rome.

The complainants add that on separate dates -- many hundreds of years later -- various tractates of the Talmud, books of Maimonides, and around 7,500 works on Jewish philosophy and science were stolen and remain in the Vatican library.

The Seven-Branched Menorah (recreated by the Temple Institute)

The Ark of the Covenant (recreated by Temple Institute)

According to information that the complainants have access to, these books can be found in the Vatican – and some of them were on display in an international book fair. They additionally claimed that the Vatican’s vaults are controlled by the Pope and others accused in the charge sheet. The Pope and others are accused of possessing stolen goods; receiving items considered stolen and receiving goods that were obtained through criminal means.

The list of witnesses appearing on the complaint include Israel’s Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with Rabbi Yisrael Ariel of the Temple Institute.

In addition to the criminal complaint, Ben-Gvir and Marzel intend to take legal action to delay the Pope’s departure from Israel until they receive a decision on their complaint.

Silver trumpets used for Divine service (recreated by the Temple Institute)

The Arch of Titus in Rome depicts troops under Roman general Titus plundering Temple treasures, including the Menorah. Throughout the ages, numerous Jewish tourists have claimed that they saw Temple treasures in the Vatican’s vaults. The Talmud details a Sage who said that when he was in Rome, he saw the Kohen HaGadol’s (High Priest's) headband with the Divine Name inscribed on it.

But at least one archaeological researcher claims that the Temple Treasures are not being held by the Vatican. Dr. Sean Kingsley, author of God's Gold: The Quest for the Lost Temple Treasure of Jerusalem, has stated that the looted treasures are somewhere in the Holy Land. “One thing is for sure – it is not imprisoned deep in Vatican City,” Dr. Kingsley told the British Sunday Times in 2006.

Gil Ronen contributed to this article.