Benedict XVI Greets Mayor of Bethlehem

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 7, 2005 ( Benedict XVI greeted Victor Batarseh, the mayor of Bethlehem, at the end of today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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In May, Batarseh, 70, of Christian origin, replaced Hanna Nasser. Although allied to Hamas, the Islamic militant group, Batarseh announced after his election that he would preserve “the Christian identity of Jesus’ city.”

On Sunday, the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera published statements of Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land, in which he lamented the traumas Palestinian Christians endure by “Muslim extremists in these regions.”

“And if it is not people of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, one is faced with the rubber wall of the Palestinian Authority that does little if anything to punish those responsible,” he added.

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