JERUSALEM (CWN) - Jerusalem's Israeli mayor on Thursday said he will send an invitation to Pope John Paul in the next few days, asking him to participate in millennium celebrations in the Holy Land, but Palestinians said the gesture is inappropriate.

      Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said the time is not yet right for a papal visit. "We hope God will give us the right moment in which to hold this visit. We need the correct context, a historical context," he told Mayor Ehud Olmert during a visit to Christian leaders marking the New Year. Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Nasser said he would advise the Holy Father not to attend the celebrations unless Israel and the Palestinians have negotiated a permanent peace agreement by then and have found a solution for Jerusalem.

      Patriarch Sabbah told Olmert that he blames Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "hard-line" policies for preventing an appropriate peace agreement. "We need to find peace here in Jerusalem, and as a policy maker we know you have the ability to help us in that endeavor," he said.

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January 9, 1998 volume 9, no. 8          DAILY CATHOLIC