VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2002 ( John Paul II has decided to send Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, "on a special mission" to Jerusalem.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls explained in a press statement today that the Pope´s decision is due to "his solicitude for peace in the Holy Land and for those Christian communities, as well as for the Palestinian and Israeli people."

Cardinal Etchegaray will leave Rome on Wednesday, and will stay in the residence of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal representative in Jerusalem.

The cardinal, 79, is known by journalists at the Vatican for going on "Missions: Impossible," which in the past included visits to China and Iraq.

The cardinal´s visit might well encourage negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to put an end to the five-week siege of Bethlehem´s Basilica of the Nativity.

Cardinal Etchegaray has already visited the region twice: over two years ago, to prepare the papal visit to the Holy Land, and then again on the occasion of the 2001 World Day for Peace, when he delivered John Paul II´s message on the "dialogue between cultures" to the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.