VATICAN CITY, APR 4, 2002 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls yesterday afternoon released the following statement concerning the dramatic situation in the Middle East:
"In the face of the worrying deterioration of the situation in the Holy Land and numerous appeals for aid that have reached the Holy Father from all sides, the Secretariat of State as well as the pontifical representation in Jerusalem have been in contact with the parties concerned. Then yesterday, April 2, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, summoned Ambassador Yosef Neville Lamdan of Israel, and, today (April 3), Ambassador James Nicholson of the United States, to discuss the dramatic situation in Bethlehem.
"In various meetings, the position of the Holy See, authoritatively expressed by the Holy Father, John Paul II and reiterated in the public interventions of recent days, was reaffirmed:
  • 1. unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, from whatever side it may come.
  • 2. disapproval of the conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people, as well as reprisals and retaliation, which only make the sense of frustration and hatred grow.
  • 3. respect for the United Nations resolutions, by all sides.
  • 4. proportionality in the use of legitimate means of defense.
  • 5. the duty for the parties in conflict to protect the sacred places, (which are) very significant for the three monotheistic religions and the patrimony of all of humanity.
"At the same time, this morning, April 3, Msgr. Celestino Migliore, under-secretary for Relations of States, received Mohamad Ali Mohamad, director of the Delegation of the League of Arab States to the Holy See, to whom he has explained the position of the Holy See, insisting, in particular, on the necessity to put an end to indiscriminate acts of terrorism.
"Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, and the substitute, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, have been in close contact with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the religious communities of Bethlehem, conveying to them the Holy Father's complete solidarity in this painful moment."

VATICAN CITY, APR 4, 2002 (VIS) - Made public this afternoon was Pope John Paul's Letter to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, in which he asks the entire Church to dedicate Sunday, April 7, Divine Mercy Sunday, to prayers for peace in the Middle East. Following is the text of that Letter:

"The dramatic situation in the Holy Land induces me to once again urgently appeal to the entire Church, asking all believers to intensify their prayers for those populations now being lacerated by forms of unheard-of violence. Precisely in this period, in which the hearts of Christians turn towards the places where the Lord Jesus suffered so much, died and arose, we receive ever more tragic news that adds to the growing dismay of public opinion, provoking the impression of an unstoppable tendency for inhuman brutality.

"In the face of the stubborn determination with which both sides continue to go forth on the road of revenge and vendetta, what appears to the anguished souls of believers is the prospect of recourse to prayer to that God Who, alone, can change the hearts of men, even the most obstinate.

"Next Sunday, April 7, the Church will celebrate with special fervor the mystery of Divine Mercy, and will give thanks to He Who took upon Himself the afflictions of our humanity. What could be a more suitable occasion to raise to heaven a choral invocation of pardon and mercy that implores the Heart of God for a special intervention upon all those who have responsibility and power to undertake the necessary steps, even if they cost a great deal, to put the parties that are fighting on the path towards just and dignified accords for all?

"I would therefore, dear brother, be grateful if you could be the intermediary, in a manner you believe to be opportune, to convey this desire of mine to the pastors of the various particular Churches, inviting them all to offer, next Sunday, a unified plea in such a serious hour for all of mankind. May a message of a stable and lasting peace reach that land that is so dear to the three monotheistic religions.

"With this hope, that comes from the deepest part of my heart, I send you and all my brothers in the episcopacy a special apostolic blessing."

Image of the Divine Mercy