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ARAB-VATICAN RELATIONS - Nov. 17 - Pope Urges Restraint.

A joint statement by Pope John Paul II and visiting Armenian Patriarch Karekin II says: "May the children of Abraham grow in mutual respect and find the proper ways to live peacefully in this holy part of the world". In an earlier written statement to Roman Catholic bishops in the Holy Land, the pope called on "those who guide the faithful of Judaism and Islam to use all their energy in faith to make a reality the interior and exterior peace which the people seek". (The Vatican walks a tightrope in the Middle East, caught between its role as a voice for peace around the globe and its own interest in protecting Christian sites in Jerusalem. It has consistently called for Jerusalem to have some type of special international status, with equal access to holy sites for all. The Vatican has had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1993, but relations have often been bumpy. The church has long criticised Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war.

In 1999, ties were rattled by an Israeli decision to allow Muslims to build a mosque in Nazareth next to a Christian holy site. In February 2000, the Vatican signed a pact with the Palestinians that guaranteed access to Christian holy sites and expressed solidarity with Palestinians, "who are still waiting to see their legitimate aspirations realised". Israel reacted angrily to that agreement, especially to the clause that called for international status for the holy sites in Jerusalem. During his March 2000 trip, which the Vatican repeatedly called a personal pilgrimage, the pope sought balance by visiting holy sites of all three religions and meeting with leaders from all three. He went to Palestinian territory as well as Israel and Jordan. The Vatican has served as an "indirect mediator" in the new violence. But Amoz Luzzato, head of the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy says the "Vatican faced difficulties acting as a mediator, because as protector of the Christian community in the Holy Land it is an interested party").
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXVA
Date:Nov 18, 2000
Words:340
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