VATICAN CITY (Fides/CNS): The Pope has expressed deep concern for the priests, religious and more than 200 Palestinians who have been under siege in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for more than three weeks.
Speaking at his Sunday midday prayer on April 21, with people in St Peter’s Square, he again invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In relation to the Church of the Nativity, he said: ‘For 20 days the church and surrounding buildings have been the scene of fighting, blackmail and unbearable exchanges of accusations. That place, and all the holy places, must be immediately restored to prayer and pilgrims, to God and to man!’
Earlier, the Franciscan order’s superior told the Pope that the group of friars trapped inside the Church of the Nativity were handling their situation with balance and strength, but the siege must not be allowed to continue.
‘For those who are in Bethlehem at this moment, a solution cannot be further postponed,’ Franciscan Father Giacomo Bini told Pope John Paul at a private meeting on April 19.
Fr Bini told Catholic News Service, ‘The Holy Father is truly suffering over what is going on in the Holy Land because he sees few signs of hope.’
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