Pope Benedict XVI was compelled to walk out on an interfaith meeting at the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem on Monday after it was hijacked by a Palestinian Muslim cleric who used the gathering as a podium to attack Israel.
Benedict addressed the gathering first, expressing his gratitude that he could come together in such a manner with high representatives of the other monotheistic faiths.
He was followed by Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, chief Islamic judge in the Palestinian Authority, who ranted in Arabic for over 10 minutes about what he called Israel's bloodthirsty rampages against the residents of Gaza and its desire to destroy Islam. He ended by calling for Muslims and Christians to unite against Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land Fouad Twal tried several times to politely stop Tamimi, but the Muslim refused to halt his tirade.
As the vitriolic speech came to an end, the pope very conspicuously got up and left the hall, though he did later shake hands with Tamimi before leaving the premises.
Both the Vatican and Israel's Chief Rabbinate issued statements deploring Tamimi's hijacking of what was supposed to be an event dedicated to reconciliation and cooperation between the three faiths.
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