Subj: NYTimes: New Mosque in Nazareth Could Imperil Papal Visit
October 15, 1999
New Mosque in Nazareth Could Imperil Papal Visit
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
R OME -- Angered by Israel's decision to allow the building of a
mosque next to a Christian holy site in Nazareth, the Vatican
warned Wednesday that such a move could jeopardize a papal visit to
Israel next year.
"Such a situation does not help in the preparation of a possible
pilgrimage by the Holy Father to that illustrious sanctuary," the
Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Vals, said in a statement.
"The decision to authorize construction of a mosque a few meters
away from the historic Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth
worries both the secretariat of state and the Catholic Church in
the Holy Land," he said.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Government announced a compromise in a
long-simmering dispute over the proposed mosque, permitting the
construction of a smaller version next to the basilica, the site
where Christians believe the archangel Gabriel told Mary that she
was to be the mother of Jesus.
Though Roman Catholic and Protestant church leaders in Israel have
criticized the proposal, this was the first time the Vatican
expressed its displeasure so publicly. "It is to be hoped that the
Israeli Government authorities, considering the value that the city
of Nazareth has for the whole of Christianity, will guarantee
respect of the Christian holy site and its free and peaceful access
to pilgrims," the statement said.
The dispute in Nazareth is one of several issues that cloud Pope
John Paul II's desire to visit holy sites in the Middle East in the
year 2000. Seeking to reconcile Jews, Christians and Muslims in the
new millennium, the Pope is said to be intent on keeping to his
plan to visit Ur, the town in Iraq where Abraham is said to have
been born, in December. But that plan has met with criticism by
some Muslim intellectuals in Iraq, as well as pleas from the United
States and Britain that the Pope not lend legitimacy to the Iraqi
leader, Saddam Hussein, with a state visit.
The trouble in Nazareth began two years ago, when Ramez Jerayseh,
the Christian Mayor of the mostly Arab town, began building a plaza
in front of the basilica in anticipation of pilgrims arriving for
the year 2000.
The area is also holy to Muslims, who believe it contains the tomb
of a 12th-century Muslim leader who died in the Crusades.
Muslims outnumber Christians in Nazareth, about 42,000 to 18,000,
and in recent municipal elections, the Islamic Movement, a
political party, won a majority on the city council, though
Jerayseh remains Mayor. After the site was bulldozed for the plaza,
knocking down an old school but leaving a small mosque, supporters
of a new, larger mosque set up a protest tent outside the basilica.
Under the compromise presented on Wednesday, the proposed size of
the new mosque would be scaled down, and construction delayed until
after the 2000 celebrations and the Pope's visit.
Wednesday, Israel's Public Security Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who
brokered the compromise between Christians and Muslims in Nazareth,
said the mosque would be screened from the basilica by a fence. He
ordered the protesters to remove the tent by Nov. 8, when the
mosque's cornerstone is to be laid.
Suleiman Abu Ahmad, a leader of the Islamic Movement, said he
generally approved of the compromise plan, but opposed removing the
tent until construction began.
"I don't know what the problem is, why some people are against it,"
Abu Ahmad said. "In a mosque we are going to pray to God. We are
not building a casino or a dance hall."
It seems to me that Israel with NYTimes as in the past is building a public opinion so as to show the world that the problem is now between Christians and Muslims.
When the Visit of the Pope is to create harmony, love and cooperation between the three Religions starting by a visit to UR, some fingers do not like that.
Israel, UK and USA are against the visit to Iraq, they will loose support if the Pope will bring with him a lot of attentions to Iraq and if the news papers will start to speak about the high death of children in Iraq.
Some Iraqis do not also the visit of the Pope because they are afraid that the Pope will speak clearly about the mistakes of the Iraqi regime, and this will bother them.
The people if the Pope will not visit Iraq will be the victim. The USA, Israel and UK will be winners, the Iraqi regime will feel another time loosing an opportunity.
As for the visit to the Holy Land.
Israel despite their invitation to the Pope to visit, Israel wants the visit on her terms, that the Pope apologizes for the Holocaust, say that Pope Pius XII was a "Pope's Hitler," that the Pope do not criticize Israel or call on a Palestinian State and rights...and of course the Vatican do not accept any of these or other conditions... Israel will not get but more isoilatins and problems because of a Pope who will expose them to the world and say the word of TRUTH.
So why not create a situation of conflict in the Holy Land...then we will say (Israel) we invited the Pope, we built a lot of hopes and he did not come...the Vatican is the only one to blame.
So not prepare the public opinion and start to invite the major news papers speak on things that could at the end put the Vatican in bad situation and perhaps under pressure...
After all the Israelis do not want to open Jerusalem to the Palestinians, wants to Judaicize Jerusalem, wants to empty the Holy Land, do not want a real peace with the Palestinians, they want the Palestinians to be subject to their conditions, to their security, to their fears and tell the world that they have done all to satisfy the needs of the Palestinians but these terrorists do not deserve but a police and we cannot be but that...we cannot live with them as a people.
So the visit of the Pope to Iraq and to the Holy Land are unwanted visits...
They are creating scenarios of fears, of misinformation, of conflicts and the Media is working for them.
We need to stand together, Muslims and Christians of the Middle East and of Palestine to say that we will win a battle if the Pope will come to visit our countries. We need to call on him to say all the TRUTH, because the truth is on our side.
We need to continue our campaign calling the Pope to visit us and say all the TRUTH. Only the truth will set us free.
Fr. Labib Kobti