Rights, Recounting Official Promises by Mandate Power.

(Jerusalem Correspondent, N.C.W.C. NEWS SERVICE.)
By Dr. Alexander Mombelli, Jerusalem, Dec, 7. 1935

A statement of principle with regard to the rights, franchises and privileges granted to, and enjoyed by, Catholics in Palestine has been set forth by the Superiors of the various religious communities in the Holy Land following a meeting in which the whole subject of Catholic rights in the Holy Land was discussed.

The conclusions of the conference, published in the Moniteur Diocesain, of the Latin Patriarchate, represent the basis of the Catholics’ defence of their traditional privileges and are to be the standard for the religious communities of the Holy Land in all efforts to forestall any attempts to minimize these franchises.

The conferences recalled the source and history of the present privileges of the religious communities in Palestine, beginning with the Treaty of Mytilene in 1901, by which the Turkish Government agreed to acknowledge the legal existence of all schools and institutions that depended on France. These institutions were granted exemptions from municipal taxes and customs duties. And these same privileges were to be extended also to institutions established in the future by France.

In order to eliminate all possibility of misunderstanding in the interpretation of the Treaty of Mytilene, a new agreement was signed in 1913 in which the rights and privileges of the Catholics in the Holy Land were set forth. These rights are, in sum, as follows:

  1. Acknowledgment on the part of the Ottoman Government of the legal existence of all the institutes under the French protectorate.
  2. Exemption of these institutions from all landtaxes and_from all municipal and custom duties.
  3. Acknowledgment of the moral personality of these institutions, in order that they may possess in their own name every kind of property.
  4. Authorization of the opening of new institutions with the right to the same franchises and to the same privileges as those enjoyed by existing establishment.
  5. Acknowledgment of the absolute independence of the schools from the schools from the State, save in the matter of programs and examinations, and then only with regard to those institutions which had the faculty of distributing diplomas admitted by the State.
  6. Acknowledgement of the competency of the Ecclesiastical Courts in the matter of personal statute.

These privileges, granted by the Ottoman Government to the Catholic Institutions in appreciation of the educational and charitable work done by the Religious Congregations to the benefit of the local population, could not but be recognized also by the Mandatory Power which succeeded Turkey in the administration of Palestine, the Catholics here insist.

Moreover, it is pointed out, the English Government, itself has officially confirmed several times the privileged situation of the Catholic institutions.

One paragraph of the Mandate says: ” It is understood that nothing shall be done against the civil and religious rights of the non Jewish communities.” In a message addressed by King George V to the Palestine people, he says: ” I assure you of the determination of my Government to respect the rights of all the races and confessions represented among you.”

General Watson, Chief Administrator of Palestine, wrote to Patriarch Barlassina on September 24, 1919: ” I have the honor to enclose an extract of 1 Diplomatic Documents, Turkey, 1900—1901,’ which show the dispositions of the Treaty of Mytilene as they were adopted by the French Government. It will be noted that the Sublime Porte has accepted all the French demands which comprehended the legal acknowledgment of the schools, of the orphanages, of the hospitals and of the religious institutes existing under the protection of France, whether they were already acknowledged or not, and she has granted to them enjoyment of immunity from the property tax and from the custom duties.”

– Malaya Catholic Leader, January 19th, 1935 (1935.pdf pp25)