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The man who excommunicated Bush and Blair

The war in Iraq “indicates that leaders of the invading states did not listen to the church, and hence, we deem them excommunicates and perverted.”[1] These were the words of Father Attallah Hanna in April 2003. He was expressing the outrage of Palestinian Christians over the invasion of Iraq. As a result of this excommunication, George Bush, then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, and Blair’s then foreign minister Jack Straw, were banned from visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the Christianity’s holiest sites. March 29, Attallah Hanna took his anti-war message to more than 600 people in a sold-out convention centre in Mississauga.

His 2003 excommunication of the Bush and Blair was hugely popular. Just two years later, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church unanimously elected him Archbishop of Sebaste for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, just the second Palestinian to hold this position.[2]

His appearance in Mississauga was organized by Palestine House, and was part of the marking of Land Day (or Youm Al-Ard) – since 1976 an annual commemoration of the struggle of Palestinians to win back their land from Israeli occupation. This year also marks 60 years since the Nakba – the Day of Catastrophe when the state of Israel came into existence pushing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile as refugees from their homeland.

Attallah Hanna said, to stormy applause, “60 years of Nakba will never make us forget. … We won’t accept any [peace] plan that won’t agree to the right of return for all the refugees.” His speech was greeted with several spontaneous standing ovations. Every person attending was given a postcard advertising this year’s demonstration against the Nakba, Saturday May 10. Coming on the 60th anniversary, it is expected to draw a very large crowd, in Toronto and around the world. Information on events around the world May 10 can be found here.

© 2008 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] Yasser El-Banna, “Church Of The Nativity ex-communicates Bush, Blair,”, April 3, 2003,
[2] Maria C. Khoury, “A Rare Day for Orthodoxy in the Holy Land,” Orthodox Christian News, January 2, 2006,

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