Israelis Let 2 Sick Franciscans Leave Bethlehem Basilica

ROME, APRIL 16, 2002 ( Two Franciscans in need of medical attention were evacuated today under superiors´ orders from the besieged Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

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The Franciscan General Curia in Rome confirmed the news for ZENIT. The same source denied reports that four Franciscan nuns, who have been confined in the basilica since the April 2 invasion by Palestinians, had also left the historic church.

The Israeli army has besieged the basilica for two weeks, demanding the surrender of the Palestinians, among whom are «terrorists,» army spokesmen said. Israeli authorities have cut off the supply of electricity and water to the Franciscan monastery at the basilica.

The Franciscan General Curia said that the four nuns in the basilica wish to remain under the siege, in fidelity to their vocation of custody and service of the holy places.

Franciscan sources said the two sick friars were evacuated after the Israeli authorities were informed of their condition.

Father David Jaeger, spokesman of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, again appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to come to a «peaceful, honorable and wide-ranging solution.»

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