Pope: Nativity Church siege should end
Pope John Paul called on Sunday for an end to the standoff between Palestinians and Israelis at Bethlehem's Nativity Church, saying it was marked by "blackmail and an intolerable exchange of accusations."
The 81-year-old Pope made another peace appeal for the Middle East during his Sunday address, decrying the violence seen in an unending stream of news and images. "These are pictures that have more force than any appeal and push us not to leave any attempt untried, at any level, so that that land, blessed by God, can emerge soon from the spiral of hate and violence," he said.
His appeal was centred on the standoff at the Church of the Nativity, which has been going on for nearly three weeks. "For almost 20 days, the basilica and its adjacent buildings have been a theatre of conflicts, blackmail and an intolerable exchange of accusations," he declared.
The Israeli army encircled the church on April 3 in an attempt to arrest 30 "wanted" Palestinians sheltering there with some 200 others - Palestinian police and civilians, along with foreign and local priests and nuns.
Attempts by Churchmen to negotiate an end to the standoff have failed.
In his address, the Pope said the Bethlehem church and all the holy sites should "quickly be restored to prayer and pilgrims, to God and man". He asked for prayers so that both sides could find "the courage of peace".
He said: "May Israelis and Palestinians learn to live together and may the Holy Land finally return to being a sacred land and a land of peace." (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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