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May 11, 2014 6:29 PM by Associated Press

Holy Land cleric: Hate crimes threaten pope visit

HAIFA, Israel (AP) - The top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land is urging Israel to crack down on vandals behind a spate of hate crimes aimed primarily at Christian and Muslim sites, a week before Pope Francis visits.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said Sunday that the crimes "poison the atmosphere of coexistence" for the papal visit at the end of May. He asked why the vandals haven't been caught.

He spoke two days after another church was defaced. It was the latest in a series of hate crimes believed to be the work of Jewish radicals.

Churches, mosques, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been hit by the vandals.

The vandalism has been widely condemned by Israeli leaders and the general public. Israeli police are investigating the hate crimes.

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