Franciscan Urges Vatican to Press for Talks on Basilica Siege

Pope Discusses Bethlehem Crisis with Superior

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 19, 2002 ( John Paul II today received in audience the superior of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor to discuss the weeks-old siege at the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Friar Giacomo Bini, minister general of the Franciscans, thanked the Pope and his aides in the Vatican State Secretariat for their work since the start of the siege. He also requested that Rome exert pressure to unblock the situation.

The crisis began April 2 when 200 Palestinians, many armed, took refuge in the church. Since then, the Israeli army has besieged the basilica, and cut off the supply of electricity, water and provisions to the site, which includes 35 Franciscan friars and four Franciscan nuns.

Father Bini asked the Holy Father to exert pressure «on the parties in conflict, stressing the character of humanitarian emergency of this situation, an emergency that calls for an urgent intervention to save numerous human lives.»

In particular, the Franciscan superior proposed that Rome call «with vigor» for the start of meetings of the Israeli-Palestinian Commission, which should find a solution to the problem.

«Holy Father, help us to be faithful to the mission that the Church has entrusted to us: with your very high, universally recognized moral authority, continue to support all initiatives that might open a new future of peace for the land of Jesus,» he concluded.

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