The Holy See
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Wednesday, 8 May 2002


Following are the main points of the statement made today in Jerusalem by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Pope John Paul's special envoy to the Holy Land:

"The tragic and intolerable situation in which the Basilica of the Nativity finds itself for over a month is at the heart of everyone's concerns by reason of the symbolic character of this holy place, but also as a test of the common will of the leaders of the two peoples to reach a true peace throughout the Holy Land. Pope John Paul II, through his prayer, words and gestures, and through the diplomatic action of the Holy See, has never ceased sharing in the sufferings and the hopes of the population of Bethlehem. I had asked to go to this place and to pray in particular with the Franciscans who, in solidarity with the Greek-Orthodox and Armenian Churches, bear the spiritual responsibility of this sacred place: Despite great insistence, I was refused what is, properly speaking, a religious step.

"One must actually be there to measure the mistrust, disdain and vengeance that have accumulated on the steep path to peace. How many ruins to clear away, material, but especially moral! At this very hour, as the negotiations for Bethlehem seemed to be reaching the finish line, a further obstacle is preventing the happy denouement awaited by everyone. I am thinking in particular of those who are in the Basilica of the Nativity, or in the adjacent convent, and also of the inhabitants of Bethlehem and environs: For them, above all, there most be no further waiting."

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