VATICAN, PATRIARCH EXPRESS CONCERN FOR JERUSALEM Vatican (CWN)

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican's top foreign-policy official, met yesterday with a delegation of Christian and Muslim leaders from Jordan, who had come to discuss the status of the city of Jerusalem. The Vatican official assured his visitors that the future of the Holy City remains an issue of vital concern to the Holy See.

Kamal Abu Jaber, the head of the Jordanian delegation, was quoted today in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica as saying that his group had been assured that Pope John Paul is "preoccupied" with the latest crisis in Jerusalem. Jaber said that the Pope's worries were caused by the "intransigent decisions" of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which "could threaten the peace process."

Msgr. Raoul Najjar, the charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature in Jordan and the president of the Catholic University in Bethlehem, was also a member of the Jordanian delegation. He told La Repubblica that Archbishop Tauran had conveyed the Pope's particular sympathy for the Christians of Jerusalem. Msgr. Najjar pointed out that while Christians accounted for half of Jerusalem's population in 1967, the worsening conditions have provoked an exodus, and today only 4 percent of the city's population is Christian.

In Jerusalem itself, Patriarch Michel Sabbah issued an unusually strong statement at the conclusion of a Palm Sunday procession on March 23. "We are living these days of suffering in injustice between two peoples in this holy city, Palestinians and Israelis," said the Latin-rite Catholic Patriarch. He decried "the outrages which have caused the shedding of innocent blood and the government decisions which have exasperated emotions."