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Holy Land Franciscan appeals for return of pilgrims

Fr Ibrahim Faltas, Franciscan Custos of Bethlehem's Basilica of the Nativity, has appealed to Christians all over the world to return to visit the Holy Land.

"Pilgrims have not been visiting for at least three years," he told Vatican Radio. "75% of the population of Bethlehem work in tourism, which has been at a stand still."

In making his appeal, Faltas stressed that no pilgrim has ever been harmed.

"Conquer your fear and return to the Holy Land," he said. "You must pray for us and visit our children who are in difficulty and feel badly. When a brother doesn't feel well, you go to visit him".

Last year, the Basilica of the Nativity was surrounded for weeks by Israeli soldiers, who held armed Palestinians and pilgrims captive inside. In recent months, the Franciscan Custody has been battling local Greek Orthodox leaders for access to the keys to the Basilica.

Vidimus Dominum

Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land | Basilica of the Nativity
Franciscan demand for key to Bethlehem Nativity Church (5/9/03)
Book renews controversy on April siege in Bethlehem (29/10/02)
Violence flares at Church of Nativity standoff (3/5/02)

19 Sep 2003