Bethlehem Franciscans Appeal to Jewish Communities Worldwide for Help

Want Israeli Army to Restore Electricity and Water Supply

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ROME, APRIL 12, 2002 ( The Franciscans have appealed to Jewish communities worldwide for the restoration of water and electricity supplies to the friars of Bethlehem´s besieged Basilica of the Nativity.

Father Ibrahim Faltas, the Franciscan responsible for the custody of the Basilica, said today that he is certain the Israeli army will not attack the church. The Israelis have surrounded the historic church since last week, after 200 Palestinians, many of them armed, invaded and took refuge there.

«I am convinced that the Israeli armed forces will think one hundred times before attacking the basilica. In the end, they will not do so,» Father Faltas said over the telephone. The priest, rector of the Franciscan monastery, believes such an attack would cause a useless massacre.

The religious suffering from a lack of water and food, and especially from psychological exhaustion, Father Faltas told the Misna missionary agency.

In a message sent to ZENIT, the motherhouse of the Friars Minor in Rome said the monastery in Bethlehem continues to be without water or electricity. However, inexplicably, in the past few days the Israeli army has supplied electricity and water to some areas of Bethlehem.

The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land told ZENIT that it was launching its appeal to Jewish communities worldwide after days of useless appeals to the Israeli government.

The Friars Minor recall their traditional friendship with their Jewish «elder brothers» and the acknowledged heroism of the friars, who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

«We are not your adversaries, we are not part of the conflict that is under way,» the appeal states. «We ask you in the name of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob: Have pity, give us back electricity and water.»

Meanwhile, Vatican Radio reported that the Israeli army has reoccupied the Bethlehem guesthouse of the Russian Orthodox Church. The news was confirmed by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which protested to the Israeli authorities.

A few days ago, Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of All Russias launched an appeal to the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, warning that «further escalation of bloodshed might destabilize the entire Middle East.»

The Russian patriarch also appealed to the world community to «increase its participation in the peace process.»

Caritas-Jerusalem appealed urgently for $715,000 (813,000 euro) to deliver medicines to hospitals, to provide clothes and blankets for the homeless, to repair some homes, and to feed 1,200 families of Jenin, Ramala and the surrounding areas.

At the same time, prayer initiatives are spreading around the world. «Every day we pray the rosary, in response to the Pope´s request to pray for the Holy Land,» a statement from Communion and Liberation says. «Only God´s intervention can give that peace that seems impossible to men.»

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