Key Catholics in Holy Land Echo Papal Opposition to the Barrier

Divides the Lives of Individuals and Families, Says Apostolic Nuncio

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2003 ( Following John Paul II’s appeal for «bridges» rather than «walls» in the Holy Land, the region’s Catholic leaders explained why the Pope spoke about the barrier being built by the Israelis.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio of Jerusalem, explained that the wall under construction «separates schools from pupils, the sick from treatment centers, individuals from their work places, families from their relatives.»

«A wall has never been a sign of peace; it hasn’t been and it isn’t,» the archbishop said today on Vatican Radio, a day after the Holy Father made public his disapproval of the barrier.

Archbishop Sambi said that he has let the Israeli authorities know that the barrier, which is intended to separate Israel from the Palestinian territories, also cuts in half monasteries, convents, churches and cemeteries.

According to the Israeli government, the construction of the barrier, which in places is an electric barbed wire fence, and in others a concrete wall, is to impede Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel.

The Palestinians see the wall an attempt to usurp their territories, pointing out that the construction does not follow the internationally recognized border drawn before the Six Day War of 1967.

A few days ago the Israeli press reported that Archbishop Sambi had negotiated some sections with the Israeli government so that Christian lands in the Palestinian territories would remain on the other side of the wall, in the Israeli part.

Archbishop Sambi replied: «The article in the Mahariv newspaper was not correct. It’s never been asked that Catholic institutions of the Bethany area be included in Israel. What I have requested is that they be included in Jerusalem. It is about East Jerusalem, that is, the Arab part of Jerusalem.» Thus, the information «has no foundation,» he said.

For his part, Father Giovanni Battistelli, superior of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, told Vatican Radio: «What we really need is a love that unites, and not means that separate, which do nothing but increase rancor, hatred and — I think — also injustice.»

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