Israel    POPE VISITS HOLIEST SITES
Pope John Paul II is visiting the most sacred sites in Jerusalem at the climax of his week-long pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
   He has prayed at the Western Wall - one of Judaism's most sacred sites - and visited a hilltop mosque complex, believed to be where Mohammed ascended to heaven.
   The site - sacred to Muslims and Jews alike - is home to the Dome of the Rock mosque, and is known to Jews as the Temple Mount for the biblical temples that once stood there.
   The Pope has celebrated mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried.
   For the first time in centuries, the Greek Orthodox Church has agreed to reschedule Sunday services there to enable the Pope's service to take place.
   As the pontiff negotiated the narrow lanes of the walled Old City in a custom-designed Popemobile, Palestinian schoolchildren cheered and released balloons in the colours of their flag.
   Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said the city's police would be on guard throughout the Pope's visit as 'some elements' might try to use it to 'express extreme positions'.
   On Saturday, the Pope was in Nazareth, where a controversy over a planned mosque has caused clashes between Christians and Muslims.
   Despite the tensions, Muslims and Christians alike packed the streets of Israel's biggest Arab city to give the Pope a warm welcome.
   In his sermon at the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Pope appealed to all people to respect the dignity of others.
   As dusk fell, the Pope returned to Jerusalem where he visited the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, praying in a basilica built on the spot where the gospels recount Jesus' torment on the night before he was betrayed and arrested.
   Pope John Paul bowed his head and rested his hands on an altar built above the rock where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus prayed in such agony he sweated blood.
   Later, in an address to an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the pontiff harshly criticised Christian communities in the Holy Land for what he called their 'scandalous' disagreements.
   'Only by being reconciled among themselves can Christians play their full part in making Jerusalem the city of peace for all peoples,' the Pope said.
   
BBC
26/3/00

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