Franciscan Tries to Reassure Would-be Pilgrims

Custody of Holy Land Says Uprising Doesn’t Affect Religious Sites

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JERUSALEM, OCT. 25, 2005 ( The Franciscan custodian of the Holy Land appealed for the resumption of pilgrimages to the area, telling pilgrims that there are no risks.

“Christians of Palestine need above all not to feel abandoned; they are asking for moral support,” Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa told Vatican Radio on Saturday. “Even though urgent, concrete needs are part of a second phase.”

“There are no problems or dangers for pilgrims who come to the Holy Land,” he added. “The holy sites are not the objective of the intifada,” the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000.

In fact, “Christian themselves who live there know that they are not in danger, and places of religious interest are not in tourist areas, although obviously this is not the question. In reality it is a tragedy that there are tourist sites that are hard hit by terrorism, as we saw tragically in Taba [Egypt] a few days ago,” he explained.

According to Father Pizzaballa, it is possible to lead a normal life in an area so marked by violence. “There are collateral realities where one lives in peace,” such as “the twinning of Churches, of Palestinian and Israeli schools,” he said.

A new kindergarten for 300 children was inaugurated Sunday in the St. Francis Millennium Center, an initiative of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land and the Italian bishops’ conference. More than 3,500 pilgrims attended the inauguration.

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