Vatican official commends Israel withdrawal from Gaza

CLICK HEREA senior Vatican official has said that Israeli authorities are to be commended for withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, but they should have left the settlers' housing behind for returning Palestinian refugees rather than bulldozing it.

The National Catholic Reporter's John Allen reports that the comments by Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, came on the heels of a barbed diplomatic exchange earlier this month between Israel and the Vatican over Pope Benedict XVI's omission of Israel in a July address in which he expressed sympathy for countries that had recently experienced terrorism.

Martino spoke at a news conference in conjunction with an annual meeting in Rimini, an Italian city on the Adriatic coast, sponsored by the Communion and Liberation movement. His comments on Gaza came in response to a reporter's question.

Contacted by telephone, the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See, Oded Ben-Hur, told Allen that the bulldozing was worked out in advance with Palestinian authorities, who have other plans for the vacated territories.

"The settlements were in violation of international law," said Martino, who for 16 years served as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations prior to assuming his present post.

"We have to recognise the courage of [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, who decided unilaterally to withdraw despite criticism from his own citizens. In effect, he gave back to the Palestinians what was theirs," Martino said.

At the same time, Martino said, "I'm disturbed by something."

"Why are the Israelis destroying everything?" Martino asked. "The Palestinians were forced to live for 38 years on land that was not their own. These structures could have been turned over to them, even sold or rented to them."

Vatican official commends Israel's withdrawal from Gaza (National Catholic Reporter 23/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

What next for Gaza and West Bank? (BBC 24/8/05)

26 Aug 2005