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Vatican donation to persuade Holy Land Christians to stay put


The Vatican is giving $A712,885 to Catholic causes in Israel and the West Bank to try to improve life for Christians there and persuade them not to flee the ongoing fighting.

Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, head of Cor Unum, the Vatican's charity arm, will visit Israel this week and deliver the money and appeal to Christians to remain in the region, the Vatican said yesterday.

A statement from Cor Unum noted that religious tourism to the region had fallen significantly in the past two years of fighting, particularly after a standoff earlier this year between Israeli troops and Palestinians holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"It's understandable why there is a desire among many to leave the country," the statement said. "The safekeeping of holy sites, however, would be seriously put in danger if Christians abandoned them."

Cordes will deliver the funds along with an appeal from Pope John Paul II to "encourage Christians to remain in these tortured places, like so many missionaries already are doing in heroic fashion," the statement said.

The money will be divided among the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the Franciscan order, Caritas and various Catholic communities in the region.

SOURCE
AP

LINKS
Book renews controversy on April siege in Bethlehem (29/10/02)
What Is It Like to Be a Palestinian Christian? (Beliefnet)
Weep for Jerusalem (The Tablet 6/4/02)
The Holy Land Foundation

7 Nov 2002