Cardinal Van Thuân Appeals for Forgiveness in Holy Land

Statements of President of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2002 ( Forgiveness is the only possible recipe for Middle East peace, but «neither Israelis nor Palestinians seem inclined to make such a gesture,» says a Vatican official.

Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, in an interview with the Turin newspaper La Stampa, pointed to John Paul II´s «mea culpa» at the Wailing Wall as an example of the kind of action needed to bring about peace.

«It is indispensable that religion be purged of fundamentalist interpretations, that it stop being a motive for conflict and an obstacle to surmounting geopolitical problems,» said the cardinal, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. «Only in this way will an era of openness, development and tolerance be possible.»

He reaffirmed the Vatican´s neutrality in regard to Israelis and Palestinians, and delineated the Church´s position with these words: «unequivocal condemnation of terrorism and condemnation of the dramatic conditions of life imposed on the Palestinian people.»

«Reprisals fuel hatred, and the suicide attacks increase militarization in the territory,» the cardinal observed. «Israel cannot ignore proportionality in the use of legitimate means of defense.»

«There is a wound that can be healed if the negotiations are respected,» he continued. «The U.N. resolutions must be respected by both sides. If they remains purely theoretical there is a risk of anarchy, where the law of the strongest rules.»

«All of us should play our part, not just the supranational organizations,» the cardinal added.

Lastly, «in the Holy Land, Christians can be a bridge between Muslims and Jews, because they share language and culture with the Muslims, and biblical tradition with the Jews. All prejudices against Israel have been overcome in the Church; it is a mistake to side with only one of the contenders,» Cardinal Van Thuân concluded.

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