Israel No Longer Credible Guarantor of Holy Places, Christian Leaders Say

Ecumenical Statement on Construction of Nazareth Mosque

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JERUSALEM, NOV. 30, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- The construction of the controversial mosque in Nazareth, promoted by Muslim fundamentalists with the support of the Israeli government, challenges Israel´s role as a credible guarantor of the Holy Places, say Christian leaders.

Leaders of the various Christian Churches and communities of the Holy Land made their complaints in a message published Thursday by the Vatican agency Fides.

The statement is signed by 12 Christian leaders including Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irenios I, Bishop Mounib Youan of the Lutheran Evangelical Church, and Father Giovanni Batistelli, Custody of the Holy Land.

«This is an ill-advised plan of certain Israeli political circles, which are making use of a marginal group of Muslims in order to sow division between Christians and Muslims in Israel and among Muslims themselves,» the statement explains.

The Christian leaders note that many Muslim religious leaders are opposed to the project, as are the national authorities of the Holy Land and of other countries of the world, including U.S. President George W. Bush.

«If some Israeli authorities abuse their governmental power to manipulate people´s religious sentiments, to divide the population to create conflict, to foment intolerant fundamentalism, then they cannot credibly claim that they can be trusted to respect any religion´s Holy Places in their jurisdiction, whether in Nazareth or elsewhere,» the message adds.

The Christian leaders «recall that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) of November 29, 1947, foresaw international guarantees for all Holy Places throughout the Holy Land.»

«As the recent case proves such guarantees may now be more necessary than ever,» the Christian leaders emphasize.

The Vatican is also concerned about the situation of Christians in Israel and Palestine, reports Fides, an agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Catholic leaders from the Holy Land will meet with the Pope in Rome on Dec. 13 to discuss the problems of adequate pastoral care.

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