Law and Negotiations Touted as Only Path to Mideast Peace

Conclusion of Catholic Summit Presided Over by the Holy Father

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2001 ( The Holy See appealed to Middle East leaders to find «new and peaceful ways to resolve a conflict that has already lasted for too long.»

The appeal was included in a press statement by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls at the conclusion of a Thursday meeting presided over by John Paul II.

The one-day meeting, on the future of Christians in the Holy Land, was attended by Catholic religious leaders from Jerusalem, members of the Roman Curia, and presidents of various bishops´ conferences.

«The participants have reiterated the will of the Church in the Holy Land and in the entire world, to continue with the commitment in favor of reconciliation and peace, through interreligious dialogue with Jewish and Muslim brothers,» the Vatican statement explains.

In regard to the present conflict, the document calls on Palestinian and Israeli leaders to «mobilize their energies in search of new and peaceful ways, capable of resolving a conflict that has already lasted too long.»

In this connection, the Catholic leaders stress «the need to respect international law and the agreements already reached to foster a return to the negotiations table.»

«The involvement of the international community was considered a necessary initiative to help both sides … to give up hatred and the spirit of vengeance,» the document adds, explaining that the Catholic bishops of Europe, Latin America, the United States and Canada will advocate this before their governments.

According to the participants of the meeting, «peace between two peoples will only be realized when there is respect for law and equity on fundamental questions, such as the security of the state of Israel, the birth of a state for the Palestinian people, withdrawal from Occupied Territories, an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem´s most sacred places, and a just solution for Palestinian refugees.»

Lastly, the statement expresses «the concern of every Christian community over the authorization by the Israeli government of the construction of a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation of Nazareth.»

The initiative «runs the risk of being considered as a provocation and is seen as a grave lack of respect for the sentiments of Christians and for a place of prayer rich in profound spiritual meaning for its faith,» the statement concludes.

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