Curfew May Hinder Christmas Preparations in Bethlehem

JERUSALEM, NOV. 22, 2002 ( The Franciscan Custody in the Holy Land appealed to Israel to lift the curfew imposed on Bethlehem, since it is interfering with important religious celebrations.

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The appeal was presented today to Israeli army representatives by Father Ibrahim Faltas, Franciscan Custodian of the Basilica of the Nativity. The basilica had been under a siege for more than a month last spring.

On Thursday night, dozens of Israeli army tanks invaded Bethlehem. The area was declared a closed military zone, in response to the latest Palestinian suicide attack, apparently carried out by a native of the city.

«No one can leave; we don’t know what can be done. People are desperate,» Father Ibrahim Faltas said in a telephone conversation with Vatican Radio.

He explained that the Israeli occupation will impede Catholics from participating this weekend in the traditional celebration, in which Father Giovanni Battistelli, Custodian of the Holy Land, solemnly enters the Basilica of the Nativity, in preparation for Christmas.

The Franciscans hoped to inaugurate the «Peace Door,» which was blessed by John Paul II.

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