Bethlehem Franciscans Get Little Relief

Israelis Provide Medicine for Diabetic Franciscan in Basilica

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank, APRIL 15, 2002 ( The Franciscans confined in the Basilica of the Nativity are still in dire straits, sources at the General Curia of the Friars Minor told ZENIT.

The Israeli army is still impeding the supply of water and electricity, and provisions, they said today. They added that Sunday night, “as every night,” the religious heard loud explosions and shots outside the basilica.

“The Franciscan friars and nuns, as every day of this unprecedented crisis, meet in prayer on various occasions during the day, to invoke the strength of divine grace to continue in fidelity to their mission in the place of birth of the Savior of the world,” the Franciscan superior of the General Curia in Rome said.

The military siege of the basilica is in its 14th day. All diplomatic attempts have failed to have the Israeli authorities lift the siege. The Israelis are demanding the surrender of the Palestinians holed up inside, among them the governor of the district of Bethlehem. Many of the Palestinians are armed.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that among those in the basilica are “sought terrorists.” They can choose between being tried in Israel or being exiled if they surrender, the condition for all the others confined in the basilica to regain their freedom, he said.

Also on Sunday, the Israeli army provided medicines to help Friar Johannes Simon, a German Franciscan, who suffers from diabetes. His medication had ran out and his life was in danger. Franciscan sources reported that the Red Cross was not allowed access to the Convent of the Nativity.

Father David Jaeger, spokesman of the Custody of the Holy Land, said today: “We renew our appeal to the parties to speedily find the much-desired peaceful and honorable solution, as also required by the international agreement signed by each of them with the Holy See.”

“Given that up until today the responsibility for the failure of the negotiations is attributed by each side to the other, we send this urgent challenge: Be the first to announce your acceptance of a solution that the other side will not feel objectively authorized to reject,” the Franciscan said.

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