Vatican suggests Israel denies religious freedom to PalestiniansBy Haim Shapiro, Jerusalem Post, 02/27/2000
JERUSALEM (February 27) - Papal Nuncio Msgr. Pietro Sambi last night justified Vatican demands for international guarantees for the holy places in Jerusalem by suggesting that Israel was denying religious freedom to Palestinians by not allowing them free access at all times to Jerusalem.
Speaking in an interview on Channel 1, Sambi was reacting to criticism of the agreement between the Holy See and the Palestinians, which includes a call for such guarantees.
In response, the pope's diplomatic representative in Israel noted that the agreement itself did not mention Jerusalem, although the preamble did include a wish for such guarantees.
"You know that not all Moslems from Gaza can go to the [Aksa] Mosque and not all Christians from Bethlehem can go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher whenever they want to," Sambi said.
However, he added that the Vatican believed that religious people did not have to intervene in politics. The call for international guarantees, he added, related only to holy places.
Israeli and Jewish leaders have criticized the document for what they say is failure to recognize that there has been greater freedom of access to holy places of all faiths under Israeli jurisdiction of Jerusalem than ever before in history.
Regarding Jerusalem, Sambi expressed his disappointment that the city was not the city of religious dialogue he felt is should be.
"People of the three monotheistic religions should be much more in dialogue," the nuncio said.
Regarding the controversial issue of the action, or lack thereof, of the late Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust, Sambi said he could understand that if someone believed that a strong condemnation by Pius XII might have saved his family from the gas chambers, such a person would be unable to forgive the late pope.
However, he said, reflecting the position of many of those in the Church hierarchy, if Pius XII had issued such a condemnation it would have only made matters worse.
"I am convinced that a strong condemnation would only
have increased Hitler's persecution of the Jews," Sambi said.