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Cardinal Kasper weighs in on Nazareth Mosque dispute

Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, has denied Israeli press statements that the Vatican would agree to a scaled down version of the controversial mosque being built in Nazareth.

In a note published by the Vatican Press Office, Cardinal Kasper confirmed that he never said any such thing. Instead it reaffirmed his statement that the building of a "large" mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation is provocative and "does not contribute to relations between Christians and Muslims".

The mosque is being supported by a fundamentalist group that in the past has attacked pilgrims at the entrance of the basilica.

Associated Press reported that Christians said the construction could destroy archaeological treasures. Muslim officials in Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab town, denied the building was doing any harm.

Fr Michel Piccirillo, an archaeologist and director of the Franciscan Institute in Jerusalem, said construction crews have hauled away human bones and what appear to be the remains of an early church or ancient synagogue.

Fr Piccirillo said he asked the Israel Antiquities Authority to arrange a detailed archaeological examination of the finds, but has received no reply. Officials of Antiquities Authority could not be reached for comment today.

Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth