U.S. Asks Sharon to Halt Work on Nazareth Mosque

Franciscan Praises Bush´s Request

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JERUSALEM, MAR. 23, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- U.S. President George W. Bush has asked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw permission for construction of a mosque in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Radio Israel reported this morning.

The request was made Tuesday during a meeting between Bush and Sharon in Washington, D.C. Some American Christian leaders had urged Bush to seek a reversal of the decision allowing the mosque.

Israeli Franciscan, Father David Jaeger, a member of the Custody of the Holy Land, told the international agency Fides: «I am delighted and very grateful to President Bush, to the American Catholic bishops, and American Christian leaders in general. Many Protestant churchmen I met on several visits to the United States had assured me of their backing for the request made by the Franciscan Custodians. The president´s support echoes voices raised all over the Christian world.»

The government of Ehud Barak had ceded to a request by Muslim fundamentalists for a mosque on the doorstep of the Nazareth basilica. On several occasions, the decision created friction between Christians and Muslim fundamentalists in the Holy Land. As a protest against the laying of the foundation stone on Nov. 23, 1999, Christian churches and holy places throughout the Holy Land kept their doors closed for two days.

The mosque is not essential to the spiritual needs of the Muslim community, since there are other Muslim places of worship in the area. In 1999, Yasser Arafat himself expressed his opposition to the construction.

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