Christians suggest Interfaith Centre for Nazareth to defuse dispute
JERUSALEM, Oct 19 (AFP) - Palestinian Christians
made a bid Tuesday
to defuse a bitter dispute with Muslims in Nazareth over the siting
of a new mosque, by calling for the establishment of an "interfaith
centre for peace dialogue" in the city.
"There should be places of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians
in the centre, which would encourage ecumenical dialogue," an
official of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem told AFP.
An acrimonious dispute has flared up between Nazareth's Muslim and
Christian communities over a piece of land next to one of
Christendom's holiest sites, the Church of the Annunciation.
The city's Christian mayor, Ramiz Jeraisy, has angered Islamic
activists with plans for a large plaza next to the church to
accommodate the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims expected to visit
it during the millennium year.
The Muslims say the land belongs to them, and they want to build a
mosque on it. The Israeli government last week gave permission for
the construction of a small mosque, but ordered that it should wait
until the end of the millennium celebrations.
The row has cast a shadow over a planned millennium pilgrimage to
the Holy Land by Pope John Paul II.
The Patriarchate, which represents the Roman Catholic church in
Israel and the Palestinian Territories, said it submitted its
proposal for an interfaith centre to Israel's public security and
tourism ministers last week.
"The pope would be happy to inaugurate such a centre," the official
"We are not against the construction of a mosque on principle, but
we believe the feelings of Christians should be respected, and the
church should remain a symbol of dialogue," he said.
He added that since the establishment of the state of Israel in
1948, 12 mosques had been built in the city, and not a single
The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, sent a letter to
Israeli President Ezer Weizman on behalf of all the Christian
churches of Jerusalem, asking for a meeting to discuss the Nazareth
dispute and the preparations for the millennium celebrations, the
"This meeting with Mr Weizman will probably take place on November
1," he said.
Nazareth is the largest Arab town in Israel and is where, according
to Christian tradition, Jesus spent his childhood.
The giant Church of the Annunciation covers the site where the
angel Gabriel told Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear