The senior Roman Catholic church leader in the Holy Land has rejected claims that Pope John Paul II's forthcoming visit to the region is part of efforts by the Vatican to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, told a news conference in Jerusalem on March 14 that the Pope's pilgrimage should not be dragged into the political arena. The visit was, he said, intended to symbolize the Pope's strong commitment to peace between all faiths.Archbishop Sabbah was responding to a journalist who asked whether the Vatican's recent decision to sign a document with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) indicated a desire by the Pope to "meddle" in local affairs.The Israeli government said the papal accord with the PLO called into question Jewish sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians—as well as the Israelis who control it—claim as their political and religious capital.But Archbishop Sabbah said: "The Holy Father [the Pope] will pray. He will meet with all believers, with all Christians—Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants—with Muslims and Jews and all the heads of state."What he will deliver as a general message in all his speeches and homilies will be a message of love, reconciliation, of making peace. So this question of meddling or not meddling in the peace process is not a question that concerns the pilgrimage of the Holy Father."Archbishop Sabbah said the Pope's visit to Jerusalem would not strengthen either Palestinian or Israeli claims to the Holy City."He will visit Jerusalem as it is, but coming to visit and coming to pray will never be a confirmation or denial of any political rights," the patriarch said. "There is no relation at ...1
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