Vatican slams Israel gay march

“It is clear that the Gay Parade scheduled to take place in Jerusalem will prove offensive to the great majority of Jews, Muslims and Christians, given the sacred character of the city of Jerusalem,” the Holy See said in a letter to the Israeli foreign ministry.

While free expression must be respected, it is “subject to just limits,” particularly when it offends religious beliefs, the Vatican added.

March outrage

The Vatican joined a number of religious leaders and extreme-right activists who have called for the cancelling of Jerusalem’s fifth gay pride march, scheduled for Friday.

Given the go-ahead Sunday by Israel’s attorney general Menahem Mazuz, the march has sparked fierce reactions.

Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupolianski, was beaten by fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews opposed to the march. And a group of rabbis reportedly intend to place a Kabbalistic curse on it.

Critics have also filed petitions in court against the planned rally, which Israel’s Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai described as “an abomination on the streets.”

So far, Israel’s Supreme Court has thrown out several petitions to cancel the march, but was due to rule on several others.

On Monday, officers and gay organisers agreed to switch the route of the parade from downtown to the ultra-secure zone around various government ministries, the supreme court and central bank, far from religious sites.

In its note, the Vatican expressed confidence that Israel’s foreign ministry would “exert all its influence” in having the authorisation for the march reconsidered, “as a mark of respect for the religious sentiments of all those who venerate the Holy City.”

Security concerns

However Israeli police say the gay pride march is likely to be postponed because of a high state of alert following threats by Palestinian factions to resume suicide attacks.

“We have made it known that it will without a doubt be necessary to postpone this event, which will require the deployment of thousands of officers to ensure security,” Ilan Franco, Jerusalem police chief, told Israeli television.

Police said the march could be postponed for a week.

The Holy See also opposed a similar World Gay Pride march in Rome six years ago.

The rally — which then pope John Paul II described as an “affront on Christian values” during the celebration of the Vatican’s Holy Year – took place anyway, with an attendance of tens of thousands.