International Help Needed to Halt Mideast Violence, Says Vatican

Plea Made at United Nations

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NEW YORK, NOV. 8, 2002 ( The international community must help Palestinians and Israelis to put an end to the spiral of Middle East violence, the Vatican said in an address at the United Nations.

The appeal was made Tuesday by Archbishop Renato Martino, until recently permanent observer of the Vatican at the United Nations. He addressed the Special Political and Decolonization Committee of the 57th Session of the General Assembly.

“It is incumbent upon both parties assisted by the international community to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation so that this issue is properly addressed and accords with resolutions” already made, said the archbishop, who was recently appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Archbishop Martino emphasized that the “massive application of violence has failed and failed miserably. It has increased the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Vatican representative then quoted John Paul II’s words from last Aug. 11, when he said: “For it is neither attacks, nor walls that separate, nor even retaliation that will ever lead to a just solution of the continuing conflict.”

“My delegation wishes to take this opportunity to recall that in another time in the region there was a voice for fundamental reconciliation and peace,” the archbishop said. “Speaking on the occasion of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, stated to the Palestinians: ‘We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land.'”

The Vatican representative also pointed out the Holy See’s efforts, through the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, to relieve the suffering of people in refugee camps.

The mission’s annual budget of $10.7 million has been supported by the U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the U.S.-based Mercy Corps International, Switzerland-based Kinderhilfe Bethlehem, Spain-based Fundación Social de la Cultura, Germany-based Bischofliches Hilfswerk Misereor, the Archdiocese of Cologne, and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, the archbishop revealed.

“These funds are used for the labor intensive program, basically for the employment of Palestinians working on municipal projects; village restoration; preschool through university educational programs; and the various health projects and clinics often forced to deal with the injuries sustained as a result of violence and armed conflict,” he added.

Lastly, Archbishop Martino addressed the question of Jerusalem: “The Holy See renews its consistent call for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of its inhabitants, in order to safeguard the special character of the City and of the sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

“Current levels of violence have caused pilgrims to stay away from the Holy Land thus imposing severe economic penalties on all the people of the region,” the archbishop lamented. “Local believers no longer have access to their places of worship in the weekly days of prayer.”

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