A Christian abbot is asked by an official at Jerusalem’s Western Wall to hide his cross while accompanying Germany’s education minister, in the latest incident of Jewish-Christian tensions in the capital’s Old City. The incident drew a rebuke and an apology followed.
The incident, which took place outside the prayer area of the Jewish holy site, is filmed and posted online by a reporter for German news outlet Der Spiegel. Nikodemus Schnabel, the abbot of the Old City’s Dormition Abbey, is stopped by a woman said to be an employee of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a Haredi-dominated body that administers the site.
Forschungsministerin @starkwatzinger erlebt am Mittwochmorgen in Jerusalem mit, wie Abt @PaterNikodemus auf dem Platz vor der Klagemauer (außerhalb der Gebetszone) aufgefordert wird, sein Kreuz abzunehmen. Die Offizielle sagt, es handele sich um eine neue Regelung. @derspiegel pic.twitter.com/Zy1GxBVCRP
— Christoph Schult (@schultchristoph) July 19, 2023
As Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger stands by, the footage shows the woman telling Schnabel the pectoral cross he is wearing is “really big and inappropriate for this place” and asking him to stow it away.
“This is very harsh, you’re not respecting my religion. You’re hindering me from my human right,” Schnabel says. “This is not a provocation, I am an abbot. This is my dress… the cross is part of my dress code. I’m a Roman Catholic abbot. You want me to not dress as my faith, that is reality.”
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation issued a statement apologizing “for the distress that was caused,” adding: “The Western Wall is open to anyone. It should be noted that there are no rules or regulations on this issue in the Western Wall plaza.