JERUSALEM (CWN) - The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, met with Jewish leaders on Monday as part of initial efforts to bring about reconciliation between the two groups in the Holy Land before the new millennium.

      Patriarch Sabbah met with Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Meir Lau, and the chief Sephardi rabbi, Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron to discuss issues ranging from the Holocaust to the status of Jerusalem's holy sites. While the two sides disagreed in several areas, all participants agreed that the meeting itself was a positive development.

      The talks come just one week after the Vatican issued anew document expressing sorrow for the failure of some Christians during the Holocaust to prevent evil. Patriarch Sabbah lauded the document, especially for its view that it is time to move forward. "As human beings we all have to deal with this memory of the past," he said. "The problem is the future, not the past." Lau, a Holocaust survivor, reminded him of the Jewish commandment to remember. "We want to make sure that such a thing will never reappear," Lau said.

      When the patriarch raised the issue of Israel restricting the access of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to holy sites, Lau defended Israel's record. He also said the Vatican never objected during the 19 years that Jordan controlled the Old City of Jerusalem and Jews had no access to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. After their meeting, the three men shook hands and pledged further cooperation.

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March 25, 1998 volume 9, no. 60         DAILY CATHOLIC