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California Judge refuses to sanction Latin Patriarchate

الراعي الذهبي

By Daoud Kuttab

The Superior court of the State of California for the county of San Bernardino has refused a petition to sanction the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (LPJ) and the American University of Madaba  (AUMC) for refusing to cooperate fully with motions of discovery.

Judge Donald Alvarez denied sanctions requested by the American Jordanian businessman Benjamin Seryani who claimed that the church and the university were not cooperating in providing documents, bank records, and a knowledgeable person about the Catholic organizations accounting. The discovery was initiated as part of the $31 million lawsuit by Seryani against the Holy See, the Latin Patriarchate, the AUM, and senior clergy in Rome, Jerusalem, and Amman. The court has yet to decide whether it has jurisdiction in a commercial dispute in Rome and the Middle East.

In his explanation of the decision, Judge Alverez, ruled that the lawyer of Seryani had “improperly attempts to expand the scope” of discovery and that the LPJ and the AUMC had complied and provided enough witnesses and evidence and therefore denied sanctions.

The Latin Patriarchate submitted their newly appointed accountant Anton Asfar and the University nominated former Patriarch Fouad Twal to testify. The testimonies along with previous testimonies from the western lieutenancy of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher showed that Californians made generous contributions to the work of the church in Jerusalem.

الراعي البرونزي

However, the funds collected in California were first deposited in Rome. It was unclear from the discovery period whether the exact amounts that the Vatican received from California made it to the Latin Patriarchate or not. Neither the patriarchate nor the university submitted bank records and that is one of the reasons for the plaintiff requesting sanctions. Seryani’s lawyer also argued that the newly appointed Asfar had no relevant information regarding these issues. But the judge refused these arguments and denied sanctions.

By addressing the motion, the judge is now able to make the more important ruling of whether the California court has jurisdiction or not to deal with the Seryani vs The Holy See et al case or not. The court has determined through discovery that the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher whose goal is to support the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem raises funds and sends them annually to help the church in Jerusalem. The judge will have to decide whether the fact that the funds stopped in Rome, means that the court has no jurisdiction to deal with catholic owned institutions or not.

Bob Spitz lawyer for Seryani had earlier stated that there is enough evidence to support jurisdiction. In an interview, he said representatives of the Los Angeles chapter of the Knights testified that the “Order raises about one million dollars annually as financial support for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (LPJ). The Patriarchate owns the American University of Madaba (AUM), which is the focus of the lawsuit by American Jordanian citizen Benjamin Seryani for breach of the contract he had with LPJ and AUM.

Spitz said that the former Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal’s deposition “confirmed the fact that donations to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the US, including in the State of California, are the primary source of funding for the activities of the Catholic Church in the Holy Lands.”

الراعي البرونزي

تكافح مجلة “ملح الأرض” من أجل الاستمرار في نشر تقارير تعرض أحوال المسيحيين العرب في الأردن وفلسطين ومناطق الجليل، ونحرص على تقديم مواضيع تزوّد قراءنا بمعلومات مفيدة لهم ، بالاعتماد على مصادر موثوقة، كما تركّز معظم اهتمامها على البحث عن التحديات التي تواجه المكون المسيحي في بلادنا، لنبقى كما نحن دائماً صوت مسيحي وطني حر يحترم رجال الدين وكنائسنا ولكن يرفض احتكار الحقيقة ويبحث عنها تماشيًا مع قول السيد المسيح و تعرفون الحق والحق يحرركم
من مبادئنا حرية التعبير للعلمانيين بصورة تكميلية لرأي الإكليروس الذي نحترمه. كما نؤيد بدون خجل الدعوة الكتابية للمساواة في أمور هامة مثل الإرث للمسيحيين وأهمية التوعية وتقديم النصح للمقبلين على الزواج وندعم العمل الاجتماعي ونشطاء المجتمع المدني المسيحيين و نحاول أن نسلط الضوء على قصص النجاح غير ناسيين من هم بحاجة للمساعدة الإنسانية والصحية والنفسية وغيرها.
والسبيل الوحيد للخروج من هذا الوضع هو بالتواصل والنقاش الحر، حول هويّاتنا وحول التغييرات التي نريدها في مجتمعاتنا، من أجل أن نفهم بشكل أفضل القوى التي تؤثّر في مجتمعاتنا،.
تستمر ملح الأرض في تشكيل مساحة افتراضية تُطرح فيها الأفكار بحرّية لتشكل ملاذاً مؤقتاً لنا بينما تبقى المساحات الحقيقية في ساحاتنا وشوارعنا بعيدة المنال.
كل مساهماتكم تُدفع لكتّابنا، وهم شباب وشابات يتحدّون المخاطر ليرووا قصصنا.

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