Anglican primate deplores armed intrusion into Jerusalem cathedral

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew asking the government to express concern to the government of Israel over an armed intrusion into St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem.

On Thursday, Anglican Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem reported that about 30 armed Israeli officers entered the cathedral to arrest Mordecai [sic Mordechai] Vanunu.  (Mr. Vanunu, a former nuclear technician, was released from jail last April after serving 18 years for revealing details of Israel’s plans to develop nuclear weapons.)

Archbishop Hutchison also wrote a letter to Bishop Riah, saying he deplored “the seemingly excessive force that was used at the cathedral”.

The text of the Canadian Primate’s two letters follows:

Letter to Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew

Earlier this week an incident happened in Jerusalem, which has greatly disturbed me and members of the Anglican Church of Canada.  Israeli special police entered in force the grounds of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral to apprehend Mordecao Vanunu.  Bishop Riah H. Abu El-Assal has reported on the traumatic effect this action had on the tourists, pilgrims and others who were present.

At a time when the issue of sanctuary is in the headlines in Canada, this incident brings to our attention once more the inappropriateness of breaching this longstanding tradition and right.  I ask that you convey to the government of Israel our concern and that of the Canadian people over this unfortunate incident.

I have assured Bishop Riah of the church’s support and prayers as his people, mainly Palestinian Anglicans, move through a period of shock as the nation mourns the death of President Yasser Arafat.  I have also expressed my hope that new ways may now be found to enable the people of Israel and Palestine to live in peace, and to flourish.

Letter to Bishop Riah H. Abu El-Assal

I was saddened and alarmed by the news in your letter to me and other Primates about the incident at St. George’s Cathedral earlier this week.  From your report the actions of the Israeli special police force seem quite inappropriate and offensive.  There has been a very longstanding tradition of respecting the holy places, not just in Jerusalem but around the world, and the breaching of the right of sanctuary is not acceptable.  I deplore the seemingly excessive force that was used at the cathedral close as the police took Mordecai Vanunu into custody, shocking and traumatizing those tourist, pilgrims and others who were present.

I am writing to the Canadian foreign minister, the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew urging him to express these concerns to the government of Israel.

Please be assured of our continuing prayers for you and for your church as you recover from this incident, and as you live through this time of mourning for President Yasser Arafat.  My prayer is that new ways may be found to enable the people of Israel and Palestine to live in peace, and to flourish.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate

– 30 –

For more information, please contact: Vianney (Sam) Carriere, Director of Communications, 416-924-9199 ext. 306; [email protected]


Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .