POPE JOHN PAUL WRITES TO NETANYAHU AND ARAFAT

VATICAN CITY, JUN 26, 1997 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today published two letters written by Pope John Paul to Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, and to Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority. The English-language letters are dated June 16.

A note accompanying the publication stated: "Deeply worried for the situation in which the Middle East peace process finds itself and, in particular, for the interruption of the fact of dialogue between the government of Israel and the Palestinian leaders, the Holy Father personally wrote to Benjamin Netanyahu and to Yasser Arafat, inviting them to resume negotiations to reach the much- desired peace in those regions." Those letters follow in their entirety: "To Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu "Prime Minister of the State of Israel "In recent months I have been nurturing a hope which every day is renewed: that the word 'peace' in the Middle East _ and above all in the Holy Land _ will once again become the principal point of reference of political activity and of the commitment of everyone, both in the region itself and in the international community. I know that much effort has been expended and that many people have offered their help, but I have seen that, unfortunately, difficulties of various kinds have so far appeared insurmountable. It must be admitted that the much hoped-for dialogue between the parties, and in particular between the Government over which you preside and the Leaders of the Palestinian People, is practically at a standstill. "This fact has prompted me to write to you, confident of the friendship which exists between the Apostolic See and the State of Israel and in the spirit of candour and cordiality which marked our meeting last February. I am writing also to President Yasser Arafat, as I wish to express to both of you my very great concern at the present time and for the short-term and long-term prospects, if this situation should continue. "You will understand, Mr. Prime Minister, that this intervention of mine is not motivated by concerns of a political nature nor is it aimed at proposing practical solutions, but rather springs from my profound sense of suffering, which I believe certainly corresponds to the sadness and perhaps even the frustration of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders know how many people have been waiting for peace and wait for it still, hoping for a future that will be effectively better. I join them in the desire to be able to look ahead to new horizons where the sufferings, fears and uncertainties of the past and present will be replaced by understanding, trust and peaceful coexistence. This appeal of mine is above all a moral one. I address it confidently to all those who are committed to the search for the good of their peoples. In the name of God and of the faith in Him which unites us all, let everyone avoid increasing the levels of tension and frustration: history, above all in the Holy Land, teaches us that great hopes, if unfulfilled over a long period of time, can cause further unforeseen provocations and uncontrollable situations of violence. The Israeli and Palestinian Peoples are already shouldering a burden of suffering which is too heavy: this burden must not be increased; instead it deserves the utmost commitment to finding the paths of necessary and courageous compromises. Efforts in this regard will certainly earn you the gratitude of coming generations and of all humanity. For only a Holy Land at peace will be able to welcome in a worthy manner the thousands of pilgrims who during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will wish to come to pray there. "Confident that these words will not go unheeded, I cordially greet you and assure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that this Apostolic See is always open to the Israeli and Palestinian Leaders, and to all who, in sincerity and good will, wish to offer their support in the quest for peace. Upon the resolve and efforts of all parties in the pursuit of the well-being of your peoples I invoke abundant divine blessings and assistance." "To Mr. Yasser Arafat "President of the Palestinian Authority "The present state of the Middle-East Peace Process and in particular the 'de facto' interruption of dialogue between the Palestinian Representatives and the Israeli Government induce me to write to you and, simultaneously, to Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. I write to you, Mr. President, mindful of the mutual esteem and openness which have always marked our many meetings. I am also moved by my constant concern for the well-being of the Palestinian people. In recent months I have truly hoped, and every day I have prayed, that peace in the Holy Land would continue to be the foremost objective of an open and constructive dialogue between the parties and the goal of a lasting and reasoned commitment on the part of the International Community. I know that efforts and attempts have not been lacking, but unfortunately it appears that so far they have been in vain. My fear is that if this situation continues it will become increasingly difficult to revive the quest for the trust that is essential to every negotiation. I am deeply worried, and I share the pain of those, especially Palestinians and Israelis, who feel let down and frustrated, and yet do not give in to the terrible temptation to rekindle the conflict and carry it to greater levels of hatred and violence. You know, Mr. President, that in sharing my deep concern with you and the Prime Minister of Israel I am moved solely by reasons of the moral order and in the certainty of being understood and, I dare hope, listened to in the name of humanity and of the Faith in God the Creator which we have in common. In the name of God I appeal to the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to consider above all the good of their peoples and the future of the younger generations. Those generations must not continue to experience the already excessive suffering which has affected these two Peoples. They must be able to look ahead with confidence, in the hope of a better future in which provocation, tension and violence will give way to a co-existence that is productive for all. The painful history of the past must not prove vain and useless, and this will be possible only through the foresight of today's leaders, which will enable them to restore, at whatever cost, the necessary trust and willingness to compromise. I am not unaware of the practical and technical difficulties involved, and which will arise at every step of the way, but I believe that they can and must be met with courage and determination, virtues proper to those who work for peace in a land that is Holy for the peoples who live there and for the whole of humanity. Millions of believers, Jews, Christians and Moslems from all over the world look to that land. Many of them wish to go there on pilgrimage. Also and especially for this reason there should be peace, so that the meaning of the approaching Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 may be complete. "I greet you warmly, Mr. President, and I re-affirm my closeness to you and to the Palestinian People, assuring you that the Holy See will always be ready to welcome the Palestinian and Israeli Representatives seeking to build peace in goodwill and trust. The Holy See will have the same openness to all who sincerely wish to offer their necessary contribution. May Almighty God bless those who sow peace and seek the good of all peoples."

______________________________________________________________________________

SUBSCRIBE, UNSUBSCRIBE, OPTIONS: http://www.cin.org/mailsub.html ARCHIVED MAIL LIST DIGESTS: http://www.cin.org/digest.html CIN ANNOUNCEMENTS list for updates: http://www.cin.org/mailsub.html CATHOLIC INFORMATION NETWORK (CIN): http://www.cin.org ST. GABRIEL GIFT & BOOK NOOK (Sponsor): http://www.stgabriel.com