Israel    CHIEF RABBI: POPE MUST COME TO US
One of Israel's chief rabbis on Monday said that if the Pope wants to meet him during a March visit to the Holy Land, it must be on the rabbi's turf.
   Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau rejected a draft itinerary in which he and Israel's chief Sephardic Rabbi are to meet Pope John Paul II while he visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.
   He said going to meet the pontiff on the wall's outdoor plaza would be demeaning, and that the Pope should come to one of their offices in Jerusalem.
   "He will come to meet us in a place convenient for him for reasons of health and for reasons of security," Lau told Israel's Channel Two TV.
   The station said that Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, who represents Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern descent, brought the issue to the attention of Lau, who represents Ashkenazi Jews of European descent.
   Asked what would happen if the Pope refused to accept the rabbis' position, Lau said, "If he cannot come (to our office), we wish him all the best. We do not imagine that he will want to come here without meeting us."
   An official of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land said the program is not yet finalized, and the Holy See will take into account the sensitivities of the Jewish and Muslim leaders whom the Pope is to meet during his pilgrimage from 20-26 March.
   
AP 8/2/00

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