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Nazareth mosque building resumes

Official protest from Franciscan Custody

Two days ago work resumed to lay the foundations for the Nazareth Mosque that the Israeli government has conceded to Muslim extremists.

In an official statement the Custody of the Holy Land deplores the authorization given by the government to this project and calls for the immediate withdrawal of the building permit. The statement signed by Fr David-Maria A. Jaeger, OFM, reads: "This activity is taking place in total disregard of the oft expressed feelings and pleas of the world-wide Christian community".

The statement recalls that the Holy See, Catholic hierarchies, other Christian leaders have repeatedly and insistently appealed to the government of Israel not to carry out the decision criticised by many Muslim and Jewish leaders, including the Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and Imam Hussein Tantawi, Egyptian Sheik of Al-Azhar.

The Holy Land Custody has many times called on the Israeli government to rescind its the "incomprehensible" decision, and it is still waiting for a reply to its latest message addressed to the Prime Minister some time ago. "The building of a mosque in that particular place the statement says - has been the demand of the most extreme Islamist elements and has been accompanied by the harshest threats against the Christian Shrine and the Christian community. The Israeli Courts have already decided that the land is state land and that the extremists' demands are groundless. Nonetheless the government itself has decided to give it to them." In the mea

ntime access to the Church of the Annunciation is difficult. In the past pilgrims on their way to and from the shrine have been stoned and insulted by fundamentalist Muslims squatting on the building site. "Building the mosque here will in effect put this Holy Place in a state of permanent siege the statement warns - and make its gate a gathering place for the most hostile elements". Problems underlined often by the Custody, but with no response.

The statement concludes. "It is difficult to escape the suspicion that what we are now seeing is a cynical attempt to exploit the present international situation as well as the dramatic conditions elsewhere in the Holy Land in order to carry out almost by stealth this harmful plan".

The Custody hopes that Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and communities will renew insistent appeals to stop the building which "could have as yet incalculable consequences on many levels."

More than a year ago the Custody of the Holy See issued a similar statement (see Fides September 15, 2000) calling on the Israeli government to retract its "irresponsible decision to allow the building of a Mosque in Nazareth on the steps of the Annunciation Church.

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