Jerusalem Catholics decry Jewish extremist group

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SHAFAQNA - Catholic leaders in Jerusalem have lodged a formal complaint with the Israeli police against the head of Lehava, a Jewish extremist group that calls for churches in Israel to be torched.

“Father Pietro Felet, secretary-general of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land, filed an official complaint with the Israeli police against the leader of radical Israeli organization Lehava, Bentsi Gofstein,” the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in Jerusalem said in a statement.

The assembly went on to demand that Gofstein be “brought to justice” for calling on followers to torch Christian churches in Israel.

“The complaint [lodged by Father Felet] referred to several attacks targeting churches and Christian holy sites by radical [Jewish] parties,” the statement added, going on to note that, in the “vast majority” of such cases, “the criminals were never brought to justice.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of more than 20 Catholic patriarchs and bishops who had expressed concern over what they described as the mounting threat to churches “in areas under Israel’s sovereignty or control,” according to the statement.

Last week, Gofstein openly called on followers to set fire to churches in Israel, claiming this was what the Torah – the Jewish holy book – called for.

“We must burn churches,” he said at a conference in Jerusalem. “I call for all churches in Israel to be put to the torch.”

The Catholic clergyman’s complaint comes amid mounting outrage – both in Israel and abroad – over recent acts of violence by Jewish extremists in Israel and the Israel-occupied West Bank.

Late last month, an 18-month-old Palestinian child was burned to death in an arson attack in a West Bank village, prompting Israeli authorities to arrest several leaders of Jewish extremist groups suspected of violence.

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