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AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT YASSER ARAFAT

This is the text of the letter written by Bishops Giovannetti and Cetoloni as published by FIDES

DIOCESE OF FIESOLE AND MONTEPULCIANO-CHIUSI-PIENZA

Mr. President,

We are following day by day, with great anxiety, the terrible situation that reigns in the Holy Land. We are engaged in setting in motion concrete actions of solidarity with the people of Palestine through every means in our power.

We write in the name of the friendship and solidarity that we, the Diocese and Municipalities that we represent, have always shown in relation to your person, your people and in particular to the holy city of Bethlehem.

In August 1997, thanks to the pressures of our group of 600 pilgrims, the blockade that had closed off Bethlehem was removed. During these years we have involved our institutions and many people in concrete gestures of solidarity and economic help towards the city of Bethlehem. We are supporting the construction of the St. Francis Millennium Centre, which you know and about which you have expressed words of admiration. In cooperation with the Municipality of Bethlehem we are also supporting the Centre of Historic Documentation that is within the Peace Centre. During these last two years especially, we have taken many initiatives to help the young people and families of the city, involving simple people, businessmen and Institutions of our region of Tuscany.

We write to you, remembering also our two meetings that you, Your Excellency, had conceded to us so cordially in your palace in Gaza (January 2001) and in Ramallah (January 2002), when we valued your words of esteem towards the Catholic Church, the Pope and the Italian people and of the commitment to peace.

Mr. President,
From the press and the declarations of your representatives, assigned to the attempts at the resolution of the situation, already untenable, created in the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem and in the neighbourhood, it seems that your Delegation has not been authorised to start negotiations with the other party yet. Various reasons for this attitude have been attributed to Your Excellency.

The friendship that we have nourished for the People of Palestine, expressed at different times in word and deed, gives us the authority, we believe, to turn to you with confident frankness to ask you for a gesture of generosity and magnanimity, which will not fail to merit for you the gratitude due. We plead with you to remove all reservations and obstacles, even though they are most just and understandable, so that the negotiations can begin immediately. The grave conditions in which the Friars, the Franciscan Sisters, the Greek and Armenian Monks, and also many of your Palestinian co-citizens, who find themselves besieged in the Holy Place, as also the Sanctuary itself, do not permit, we believe, the prolongation of the torment for reasons of non-substantial demands, and not pertaining to the essence of the so desired pacific solution.

We are confident, Mr. President, that you would not want to use the Holy Place and the consecrated persons that are there, or to subordinate their fate to any other objective, even though just and understandable in themselves.

In the name of Mons. Luciano Giovanetti,
Bishop of the Diocese of Fiesole

Mons. Rodolfo Cetoloni
Bishop of the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza

For the cities twinning with the City of Bethlehem:
Montevarchi, Orvieto, Assisi, Verona, Greccio,
Civitavecchia, Pietrelcina, Patrovecchio:
the Mayor Angiolo Rossi

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