Israeli Wall Affects Franciscan Lands

JERUSALEM, OCT. 3, 2003 ( The Franciscan custodians of the Holy Land are watching with «growing concern» the 350-kilometer cement and barbed-wire barrier the Israeli government is erecting to keep out Palestinian terrorists.

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On Wednesday came the news that the Israeli government would build another 42 kilometers of «security wall» in the West Bank.

Father Giovanni Battistelli, custodian of the Holy Land, said: «For a long time we have suffered limitations in the issuance of visas and movement. Even this wall that the Israelis have been constructing for months passes through some of our properties in Bethpage and other places.»

«In Bethpage we are building apartments for Christian families to avoid their emigration,» the Franciscan explained to SIR, the information service of the Italian bishops’ conference.

The religious are hoping for a solution with the help of lawyers, «but we are pessimistic,» Father Battistelli said. «If they knock down others’ homes, what hope do we have of recovering our land?»

The nuns of the Greek-Melkite Church are experiencing a similar situation, he added. The Israelis are «closing their way of access,» he said.

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