DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY November 15, 1999 vol. 10, no. 216
NEWS & VIEWS
U.N. RESOLUTION ON "FREE ACCESS" TO BETHLEHEM
Vatican Permanent Observer Applauds Approval of Jubilee Plan
NEW YORK, NOV 12 (ZENIT).- The U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously on the resolution to allow "free access" to Bethlehem during the Jubilee. In Jesus' birthplace on the West Bank, the Israeli government will establish military control posts following the outbreak of disorders last month, after a Palestinian was killed by an Israeli soldier.
The resolution calls for an immediate change in the territory of Bethlehem and its surroundings, especially in regard to guarantees for the freedom of movement and unconditional access to holy places by pilgrims of all nationalities.
The U.N. General Assembly also recognized this Palestinian city as Jesus Christ's birthplace.
Israel voted in favor of the resolution, as it agrees in principle, although it had certain objections regarding its formulation. Aaron Jacob, Israel's Vice Ambassador at the United Nations, explained that his government is pleased with the definition of Bethlehem. Although in the time of Jesus, Bethlehem was Jewish, the political and juridical ordering of the city must still be decided by the negotiators of the permanent agreement between the parts involved, the diplomat said.
A few days ago, Hanna Nasser, the Palestinian mayor of the city, protested, considering that the Israeli military presence would discourage pilgrims. But Aaron denied this argument, affirming the exact opposite. According to Aaron, the State of Israel is committed to the modernization of the city's structures, according to the proud Israeli tradition of promoting religious liberty.
The topic of Bethlehem and the Jubilee was also addressed by Archbishop Martino, the Vatican's Permanent Observer at the U.N., in a meeting of the third commission of the General Assembly. Specifically, the Vatican representative commented on the "Bethlehem 2000" plan, which includes a series of celebrations in Territories of the Palestinian Authority during the Jubilee Year.
UNESCO, the U.N. organization for Education, Science, and Culture, has funded a program in Bethlehem for the Jubilee celebrations. About 2 million pilgrims are expected to visit Christ's birthplace in the year 2000,
Finally, Archbishop Martino expressed the hope that those who are
contributing to the peace process in the Middle East will make every
possible effort so that the new millennium can be celebrated in an
atmosphere of reconciliation throughout the region.
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NEWS & VIEWS