The Jerusalem Post reported that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano expressed the Holy See’s gratitude last Thursday, when he met in Rome with Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Silvan Shalom. The Vatican’s official statement on the meeting made no mention of the issue.
The Holy See, various Christian communities, and even key Muslim and Arab leaders, among them Yasser Arafat, opposed the construction of the mosque, whose cornerstone was laid on public land in November 1999.
According to Franciscan sources, the mosque was meant to appease fundamentalists who in previous years had attacked Christians. The local Muslim community already has its own places of worship in the area.
On April 4, 1999, while Catholics were celebrating Easter and Orthodox were marking Palm Sunday in the basilica, Muslim fundamentalists attacked and wounded a number of Christians. In 1998, fundamentalists destroyed some Christian-owned stores.