Pope Expresses Sympathy with Franciscans in Bethlehem

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II voiced sympathy for the Franciscans in Bethlehem´s Basilica of the Nativity, who had their telephone lines cut off by the Israelis.

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“My thoughts go constantly to Bethlehem´s Basilica of the Nativity, where the religious community and other numerous persons continue to suffer the siege, which has already lasted for 22 days,” the Holy Father said at the end of today´s general audience.

“Their conditions, which in themselves are already dramatic given the lack of water and food, have been further aggravated by the interruption of their telephone lines,” John Paul II told the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square.

The Holy Father himself used the telephone to give the 35 religious and four nuns a message of encouragement last week. The basilica was been under siege by the Israeli army since armed Palestinians invaded the historic site April 2.

The government of the Order of Friars Minor has called the Israeli Embassy in the Vatican several times to express its concern over this measure.

“Let us continue to pray to the Lord so that a solution to this situation will finally be found with the contribution of all, and that the longed-for peace will arrive in that region,” the Pope exhorted.

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