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Franciscan Friary
St. Francis Str. 1

The Custody
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Nazareth mosque building Halted

Positive reactions worldwide

The Internal Cabinet yesterday in a near unanimous vote decided to stop the illegal construction of the Shihab Ed-din Mosque. The decision also includes the setting up of a commission which is to give e definitive answer within fifteen days.

The Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Giovanni Battistelli, interviewed after the new developments stated that "we Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, custodians of the Christian Sanctuaries, are happy to hear about the decision brought forth also after so many statements and pressure from the Holy See and the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land". He also affirmed that "the friars are aware that the building of the Mosque brought a world-wide outcry from the Christian world and from those who are interested in the ecumenical dialogue". His hopes are that the new commission will give a responsible judgement in face of the world-wide sentiment about the issue. Moslems will certainly not be happy if someone dreamt of building a Church in front of the Kaaba in Mecca, neither Jews will be happy if someone built such a church in front of the Western Wall. In view of this principle of reciprocity the Christians demand that their religious feelings be respected too. The Franciscans look forward to the reconsideration of the terrain where the initially planned plaza was to be built. They agree that an ecumenical centre be build here (but not 700 sq. metres) . The Franciscans have from the outset insisted that a small or large mosque in this area will always create an obstacle for peaceful living (see incidents that occurred in 1999). The Franciscans are not against religious buildings in themselves but against such a building in front of Basilica of the Annunciation, the most holy site where for us Christians, all the mysteries of our faith are rooted!

This decision was prominently reported on all news media world-wide. Among them we quote the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz: "The security cabinet, apparently responding to pressure from the Vatican and other Christian bodies, yesterday ordered a halt in the construction of a controversial mosque at the foot of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, sparking protests by Muslims who called the decision "persecution." The construction, approved by the Barak government, caused friction between Israel and the Christian world, especially the Vatican. The Nazareth Waqf (Muslim religious trust) began construction several weeks ago, at the foot of the church, the largest in the Middle East, where Christian tradition says the Angel Gabriel foretold the birth of Jesus." (see article) The article ends with a statement saying that "Wakf leaders last night said they regard the government decision as "persecution of Muslims and Arabs in Israel," and vowed to continue their "holy struggle for Shahab a Din," after whom the mosque is named. According to Nazareth Deputy Mayor Salman Abu Ahmed, the government decision was "miserable persecution of Muslims and the government and church leaders will pay the consequences for what could happen. We know how to struggle."

The Jerusalem Post too published a prominent article.

For pictures and documents about the matter see the special website: www.helpnazareth.org.

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