From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Vatican Proposes Independent Force to Halt Mideast Violence

Date Mon, 15 Apr 2002 20:48:42 EDT

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Fr. Raed Abusahlia
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
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Rome Calls Attention to "Humanitarian Problem" in Bethlehem4s Basilica

JERUSALEM,  APRIL 14, 2002 -- A Vatican official has insisted on the need for
an independent military force to halt violence in the Middle East.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states,
made this proposal Saturday during an interview on Vatican Radio, according
to the news agency  Archbishop Tauran also called for a solution
to the siege of Bethlehem's Basilica of the Nativity.

The Vatican has appealed since November 2000 for an independent force to halt
the violence in the Holy Land, although it is aware of the complexity of the
initiative, given that the two sides "are not deployed along one line."

Archbishop Tauran believes this third force should act as a "friend," which
arrives on the scene "to separate the two contenders, who not only shoot at
each other, but are unable to look at one another."

The objective of such a force, he said, should be to "silence weapons, create
a climate of mutual trust, and make the two contenders return to sit down at
the negotiating table."

With reference to Bethlehem, Archbishop Tauran said that the "status quo of
the holy place of the Basilica of the Nativity has been violated by the
Palestinians, who have sought refuge in its interior with arms."

"I have already said that it is the first time in the long history of the
status quo of holy places in which armed men have stayed for so much time and
this is certainly a violation," he explained.

Now it is a "humanitarian problem," as there are "200 armed individuals with
some 30 friars and women religious," for whom "it is indispensable to ensure
the minimum conditions of human life," the archbishop emphasized.

"What is at stake here is the protection of civilians in case of war, namely,
'ius in bello' [right conduct in war], and I can say that Vatican diplomacy,
confidentially and discreetly, is trying to help the two parties to speak to
one another so that this problem can be solved," he said.  He noted that
"there are elderly and sick people [and] a lack of water, food" at the

Archbishop Tauran made it clear that it is not up to the Vatican to offer
"technical solutions" to the problem.  But he suggested "the establishment of
a mixed Israeli-Palestinian commission to address" it.

The Vatican aide said he was hopeful for U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell's mission in the Middle East, because he can talk with all the parties
involved, demonstrating again that while "one against the other -- Israelis
against Palestinians -- will never win the war; together, they might win the


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