Page 5, 18th July 2003

18th July 2003
Page 5
Page 5, 18th July 2003 — Middle East

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Locations: Rome


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Middle East

Israel thanked by Holy See

THE HOLY See thanked the Israeli government for putting a stop to the construction of a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, in Nazareth.

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 Christianowned stores.

Peace returns to Bethlehem

THE END of the Israeli army's military occupation of Bethlehem has made it possible for the city's Catholic university to offer summer courses again. Brother Vincent Malham, of the Brothers of Christian schools, rector of Bethlehem Catholic University, said that "this would seem to be a small hopeful step toward peace and security which we trust will not be stopped with new violence". Franciscan Father Ibrahim Faltas, superior of the Nativity Church, said that "after three years of violence and hatred people have had enough. Israelis and Palestinians cannot take any more: everyone wants a better life. The announced cease-fire offers a glimpse of hope which we must not let go".

Pope consoles grieving Iraqis

POPE JOHN Paul II sent his condolences to Chaldean Catholics around the world after the July 7 death of their spiritual leader, Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid. The 81-year-old patriarch, whose offices were in Baghdad, Iraq, died in Lebanon, where he had been hospitalised for months, because of a kidney ailment and complications from diabetes. In a telegram the Pope prayed that "God, the Father of all mercy" would grant the patriarch peace and light after his 59 years of ministry as a priest, bishop and patriarch". The patriarch, who repeatedly called for peace in Iraq and throughout the region, years spent yes appealing for an end to the economic sanctions imposed upon the country following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and tried to persuade people in the West of the danger of continually antagonising Saddatn Hussein and the Iraqi people.

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