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Papal sympathy to Palestinians on Arafat death

Upon learning of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat yesterday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano sent a telegram of condolences in the name of Pope John Paul II to Rawhi Fattuh, president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, expressing the Holy Father's closeness to the Palestinian people.

"At this hour of sadness at the passing of President Yasser Arafat," reads the telegram, "His Holiness Pope John Paul is particularly close to the deceased's family, the Authorities and the Palestinian People.

"While entrusting his soul into the hands of the Almighty and Merciful God, the Holy Father prays to the Prince of Peace that the star of harmony will soon shine on the Holy Land and that the two Peoples dwelling therein may live reconciled among themselves as two independent and sovereign.

In another statement, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described Arafar as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them towards national independence".

"May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land, with two independent and sovereign States, fully reconciled with each other," he said.

Yasser Arafat met Pope John Paul II 12 times between, including a meeting in Bethlehem during the Holy Father's pilgrimage to the Holy Land in March 2000.

In 1994 the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in order to remain "open channels for continuing the development of mutual relations, understanding and cooperation, gave the "already long-existing and fruitful working contacts a permanent and official character," and an office of representation for the PLO was opened at the Holy See.

On February 15, 2000, John Paul II and Arafat signed a Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinian Liberation Organization dealing with certain juridical questions regarding the Church's activity in Palestinian Authority territory.

Meanwhile Christians in Ramallah were "saddened" by the news. Last night Christians and Muslims gathered in Ramallah for a candlelight vigil to pray for Yasser Arafat. The pastor of the Latin-rite Holy Family Parish, Fr Ibrahim Hijazin, told AsiaNews, "the funeral knell of our church will toll all day for our President".

Pope sends condolences to Palestinian people upon death of Yasser Arafat (Catholic News Agency 11/11/04)
Vatican reiterates desire for two independent and reconciled states in Holy Land (Catholic News Agency 11/11/04)
He led his people towards independence, Navarro says ( 11/11/04)
Priest in Ramallah: "Funeral bells and a Mass for Arafat" ( 11/11/04)

Death of Arafat: declaration of the Holy See (Missionary Service News Agency 11/11/04)
Christians mourn Arafat's loss to Palestinians; see risk, opportunity (Ecumenical News International 11/11/04)
Palestinians must remain 'one' after death of Arafat ( 11/11/04)
After Arafat, an opportunity for non-violence ( 11/11/04)
Vatican praises Arafat for Palestinian vision (Reuters/ABC 11/11/04)
Pope sends condolences on death of Arafat (Independent Catholic News 11/11/04)
Churches express condolences following death of Arafat (Independent Catholic News 11/11/04)
Israel-Palestine peace plan needed, say churches and agencies (Ekklesia 11/11/04)
Churches express condolences following Arafat death (Ekklesia 11/11/04)
Palestinians in Bethlehem weep at passing of longtime leader Arafat (Catholic News Service 11/11/04)
Pope, Vatican mourn Arafat (Catholic World News 11/11/04)
Papal telegram of condolences upon death of Arafat (Vatican Information Service 11/11/04)
Holy See joins in pain of Palestinian people for Arafat death (Vatican Information Service 11/11/04)
Archbishop Patrick Kelly on death of President Arafat (Independent Catholic News 11/11/04)
Jerusalem bishop appeals to Christian leaders after Vanunu held (Ecumenical News International 11/11/04)

12 Nov 2004