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Arson Attack Reported At Jerusalem Church Near Where Pope Celebrated Mass

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POPE FRANCIS
Priests and Israeli policemen inspect a Catholic church on May 26, 2014 after arsonists set fire to it at a contested site in Jerusalem during a visit by Pope Francis. 'Someone entered the church, went down to the crypt, picked up a book used by pilgrims and took it to the small room near the organ and set it on fire, burning wooden crosses,' Brother Nikodemus Schnabel said, just after Francis celebrated mass next door at the Upper Room in Mount Zion. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credi | THOMAS COEX via Getty Images

JERUSALEM (AP) - JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli police say a prayer book was set on fire in an apparent arson attack at a Jerusalem church near a sensitive holy site where Pope Francis celebrated mass.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says an eyewitness saw a man enter the Dormition Abbey and light candles before fleeing the scene. The suspect's identity or motive was not immediately known.

In the run-up to the pope's visit, there have been a number of hate attacks directed against Christian holy sites and properties.

Nikodemus Schnabel, the church spokesman, said a book of personal prayers was set on fire. A wooden bench and small crosses nearby also caught on fire, causing little damage.

He said the fire took place after the Pope finished mass at a nearby holy site revered by Christians as where Jesus had his Last Supper, and by Jews as the tomb of the biblical King David.

Religious Jewish nationalists have protested in recent days because the Vatican is pressing for more access to the site.

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