Mazza, Roberto. “A Comment on Seth J. Frantzman and Ruth Kark’s ‘The Catholic Church in Palestine/Israel: Real Estate in Terra Sancta’ in Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.50, No.3 (2014), pp. 370–96.” Middle Eastern Studies 51.1 (2015): 167-168.
In their article, Seth Frantzman and Ruth Kark aim at the reconstruction and analysis of Catholic properties in Palestine/Israel, focusing on the modern era, in order to examine the motivations for the Cahtolic church to expand its land ownership in the region. The purpose of the article is commendable and indeed such research would shed light on the ling-term Catholic Church’s action in Palestine/Israel; however the article falls short of its purpose due to the fact that the authors failed to use relevant primary and secondary sources.
This paper traces the history and development of Catholic real estate ownership in Palestine/Israel, uses of the properties, and the impact on the physical and cultural landscapes and on identity formation of the local population. It takes a long-term perspective, beginning with the return, after a short absence, of the Franciscans to the Holy Land in the fourteenth century and ending with the present position of the Catholic Church and the properties of its various sects and orders. It examines the history of the Catholic Church in Palestine/Israel under the Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli regimes. In contrast to the large body of existing scholarship on the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, this examination of the local history of the Catholic Church views it through the prism of land ownership and properties. The landholdings of the Catholics are compared and contrasted with findings of previous studies by authors on those of the Greek-Orthodox and Anglican churches. Special attention is paid to the differences in frameworks, functions and geographic dispersal of the church organs, such as monasteries and educational institutions as well as the property of the local Arab Greek-Catholics. The article also examines the effect of Arabization of the Catholic clergy in relation to the lands owned by the Catholic Church and finds that, unlike other churches in the Holy Land, the Catholic Church has not generally experienced ethnic-related dissent over property.