• ISRAEL \ Mar 28, 2003
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    George Haddad appointed Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee
George Haddad appointed Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2003 (Zenit.org)

John Paul II has named Monsignor Georges Haddad the Apostolic Administrator of the Greek-Melkite Archeparchy of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee.

Monsignor Haddad, born in Beirut June 24, 1957, carried out his secondary studies at the Patriarchal College of Beirut until the last year of secondary school (Philosophy Faculty). He obtained a degree, as member of the Society of St. Paul Missionaries, in Philosophy and Theology at the St. Paul Institute of Harissa. He speaks fluent Arabic, French and English.

In 1981 he was ordained deacon and priest on August 28, 1983. On March 21, 2002 the Holy Father erected the Apostolic Esarchy for the Catholic Greek-Melkite residents of Argentina, based in Cَrdoba, naming Monsignor Georges Haddad its first Apostolic Esarch, and assigning him the titular post of Mira of the Catholic Greek-Melkite.

"Come and See" Editor adds that the Greek Catholic Church is the biggest Christian Church in Israel. According to sources, Archmandrite Emile Shoufany, head of the Motran School in Nazareth, has travelled to Rome to file a reservation, as he saw himself a candidate for this post.

This story takes us back to 1998 when Muallim was elected. This story was published in Jerusalem Post at September 3, 1998.


(August 31, 1998) - A dispute between the government and the Vatican, over the appointment of a new Greek Catholic bishop, sheds new light on the quiet war of influence Israel and the Palestinian Authority are waging over the country's churches.

A telephone rings in a church building in Sao Paulo, Brazil. A confused conversation ensues in a patois of English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. Eventually the clerk understands and goes looking for the requested party.

A polite voice shortly comes on the line and identifies himself as Bishop Boutrous Mouallem. Another conversation ensues, this one less confused and, at Mouallem's request, recorded.

Mouallem has reason to be cautious. The newly appointed Archbishop of the Galilee for the Greek Catholic Church finds himself at the center of the most serious crisis between Israel and the Vatican since the two states established diplomatic relations in 1994. Accused of having ties to extremist PLO elements and to Syrian intelligence, Mouallem almost was denied an entry visa by the government.

"What I have read in the newspapers has been very strange to me," Mouallem says in a French polished by years in Lebanon. "I was very disturbed by what I read. I think there must be something erroneous at the base of all this. When the truth is found out everything will be okay."

Indeed, Papal Nuncio Monsignor Pietro Sambi says, the dispute finally has been resolved and the approval of Mouallem's appointment is in its final stages. But it has been a most grudging welcome for the new spiritual leader of some 50,000 Israeli Arabs - and reflects the degree to which even the country's churches have become a battleground in the political struggle between Israel and the Palestinians.

The central figure in the Mouallem affair is not Mouallem himself but an Israeli Arab schoolmaster by the name of Archimandrate Emil Shoufani. Head of the St. Joseph's School in Nazareth and a close associate of the outgoing Archbishop of the Galilee, Maximus Salloum, Shoufani was chosen to be the next archbishop at a meeting of the Greek Catholic synod in Beirut last summer.

(The Greek Catholic Church was created in 1724 as result of a schism in the Greek Orthodox Church, and has Arab adherents throughout the Middle East. The leader of the church, the patriarch, sits in Latkia, Syria, and is under the authority of the pope. Hence, Shoufani's nomination was forwarded to the Vatican for approval by Pope John Paul II.)

Here the story gets murky. Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO foreign minister who chose to remain in Tunis rather than accept the organization's reconciliation with Israel, opposed the selection of Shoufani, whose opponents whisper that he is a Zionist collaborator. In a letter to the PLO ambassador to Syria, Kaddoumi wrote that Shoufani's appointment must be blocked and his rival, Father Fawzi Khouri of Fassuta village, appointed in his stead.

Also lobbying against Shoufani was Hilarion Capucci, the former Greek Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem convicted in 1974 of smuggling weapons to Palestinian guerrillas. Banned from Israel and now residing in Beirut, Capucci is said to have made veiled threats against the bishops if they insisted on appointing Shoufani. Sensing trouble, the Vatican refused to confirm Shoufani's appointment.

Enter Israeli officials.

The fracas reached the attention of Shmuel Evyatar, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert's adviser on Christian affairs. Evyatar conferred with Netanyahu and Foreign Ministry officials and became the government's point man in an effort to convince the Vatican to honor Shoufani's election.

Also involved was Uri Mor, director of the Department for Christian Communities in the Religious Affairs Ministry, who raised the issue on two visits to the Vatican. Pressure was applied out of media range, but not always diplomatically. According to one report in the Hebrew press, Evyatar shocked a delegation headed by a Holy See official when he arrived at the group's hotel in Israel and said that if Mouallem was appointed in lieu of Shoufani, Israel would deny him an entry visa.

At the level of the synod, meanwhile, the issue also refused to die. Early this summer, according to Evyatar, the group reconfirmed its selection of Shoufani.

"They did a naive thing," Evyatar says sarcastically. "They voted for who they thought was the best choice."

When it became clear that the Vatican would not appoint Shoufani but would insist on Mouallem - a Palestinian refugee who has served in church posts in Lebanon and Brazil - the synod finally gave its approval. Israeli officials raced to Sambi to convey their displeasure and urge him to allow more time for the dispute to be resolved in Shoufani's favor. The very next day, Mor says, the Vatican named Mouallem as the Archbishop of Galilee.

Netanyahu's spokesman, Aviv Bushinsky, linked Mouallem to Kaddoumi, Capucci and Syrian intelligence, described him as a potential "source of ferment" among Israeli Arabs, and reiterated the threat to refuse him a visa. The Vatican responded furiously - claiming the appointment was carried out "free from any external pressures" - and said that not only was Netanyahu's opposition "incomprehensible," it might breach the Fundamental Agreement governing relations between Israel and the Holy See.

The local media also raked Netanyahu over the coals for allegedly provoking an international crisis with a Byzantine mindset that considers every appointment an arena for manipulation and control.

"Israel normally is sensible enough to say, 'Why in the world get involved?' " says Rabbi David Rosen, head of the Anti-Defamation League's Israel office and one of the negotiators of the Israel-Vatican Fundamental Agreement.

"There is no logic whatsoever to go to battle over such a position, unless that is your personality. All it does is give us a bloody nose."

Faced with the Holy See's resolve, Netanyahu backed down. Vatican and Palestinian officials refused to comment on the dispute. Despite the rude welcome, Mor acknowledges, "when [Mouallem] arrives I'll receive him at the airport with honor, as I receive all the bishops."

Government officials say that the struggle for control of the Greek Catholic Church mirrors a similar process taking place in other local churches - including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran - where bishops are much more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have been appointed in recent years. In addition, the officials say, since the Oslo Accords were signed, the Palestinian Authority has been trying, unsuccessfully, to wrest control of the Greek Orthodox Church.