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Papal Envoy appeals for swift end to siege

 The Pope's special envoy to the Holy Lands has appealed for a swift end to the siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, stating that "there must be no more waiting" for those still inside the oldest church in Christendom. Speaking on his arrival in Jerusalem, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray described the situation at the Basilica as tragic and intolerable but also "as a test of the common will of the leaders of the two peoples to reach a true peace throughout the Holy Land." The Cardinal was asked by Pope John Paul, to go to Bethlehem to pray and show solidarity with the Franciscan monks, the Greek-Orthodox and Armenian Churches who bear joint responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Basilica. Despite repeated requests and what the Cardinal describes as "great insistence", that he be allowed to join the religious in prayer he was refused access to the Church. "One must actually be there to measure the mistrust, disdain and vengeance that have accumulated on the steep path to peace. There are many ruins to clear away, material and moral!" he commented. "At this very hour, as the negotiations for Bethlehem seemed to be reaching the finish line, a further obstacle is preventing the happy denouement awaited by everyone. I am thinking in particular of those who are in the Basilica of the Nativity, or in the adjacent convent, and also of the inhabitants of Bethlehem and environs: For them, above all, there most be no further waiting." source: Vatican Information Service