By Daoud Kuttab
I am neither a judge nor an investigator and therefore I have no right to decide for certain who is innocent and who is guilty. But as a journalist, my job is to present the information that I receive, and the more credible it is the more I am comfortable publishing it. For example, information from a legally submitted case that has to be done under oath is newsworthy even though a judge has not made a decision on it. Even more, newsworthy is a decision by a neutral judge or a particular motion.
But what happened this week and especially what three Italian newspapers published simultaneously with the same headline, the same photo, and the same text, leave a question mark. In other words, such an article that is planted by a particular side is suspect.
The headline in the three papers alamy, ilmessagero & ilmatino decided that former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal is in big trouble, that the American University in Madaba which he founded has “proven to be a nightmare, a devastating bottomless pit of money that left a long trail of debt on the ground probably caused by mismanagement and corruption.”
All this might be true but it is certainly not a proven fact. The Patriarchate in Jerusalem has long said that there was “mismanagement” in the American University of Madaba but no one, as of yet, has said, nor prove the existence of “corruption.” The Patriarch sold important land in Nazareth to pay back some of the debt of the university but the reporting here is extremely truncated. First, that case by American Jordanian businessman Benjamin Seryani is primarily against the Vatican, the Latin Patriarchate, and the University in Madaba and is very much about the money-laundering scheme of some in the Vatican, all of which are mysteriously missing in the three newspapers. All these issues have yet to be discussed in court yet the Italian newspapers choose only the Patriarch and avoided all others.
In the US media is allowed to write about lawsuits while they are in progress but journalists are expected to use terms like alleged or suspected rather than make their own judgments. But when three newspapers out of the blue decide who is guilty of corruption and who is innocent without any proof one has to suspect the source of such exact photocopy articles.
The lawsuit in the US is also against a number of key persons including the Secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Antonio Franco the Vatican’s Secretary of State and Petro Parolline the person in charge of assessment in the Vatican. In addition to the Patriarch Fouad Twal the lawsuit is also against Bishops William Shomali, Salim Sayegh, Bishara Maroon Laham as well as Pierbattista Pizzaballa who was the Latin administrator in Jerusalem when the lawsuit was filed in 2019 and who is now Patriarch of the Latin Church in Jerusalem.
By law and common sense, all of the above are innocent until proven guilty. But why did the three Italian papers only focus on Fouad Twal? Is it attempting to distract attention from the allegation that some in the Vatican are involved in money laundering? Or is it aimed at exonerating Patriarch Pizzaballa who is presented as the savior of the Church by selling land to pay back the debt of the University in Madaba?
One can smell a scent of racism in this attack which most likely came from persons who have been benefiting from the status quo in Rome and or Jerusalem. In the same way that all qualified Arab applicants for the post of the patriarch were pushed away to make room for an Italian who doesn’t speak any Arabic, in the same way, we are seeing Italian media accuse without proof an Arab person while avoiding any accusation to the others incriminated in the same case.
The court in the county of San Bernardino in the US state of California is expected to end quickly with the next month or so. Legal experts say that there are three possible scenarios:
- That the Latin Patriarchate and other comply with the order of the court and present to the court all financial documents in the past ten years, and that former Patriarch Twal and a knowledgeable person from the University in Madaba testify. This is a tall order.
- That all or any of the three parties refuse to comply and thus they will automatically make life easier for the Judge who will decide automatically that the court has jurisdiction and the case will move to hearing both sides.
- That the three parties ask for a sixty-day extension. This will be granted only if they commit to immediately initiate negotiations to settle the $31 million case.
The third scenario is seen by many as the most appropriate and least painful to all parties. It moves the case to resolution rather than to continue in mutual accusation for the better of all parties.
*The author is the publisher of the Christian Arab website Maghtas.com
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.