Bethelehem: Franciscans still without food

 Although the Israeli Supreme Court authorised food to be delivered to the the Franciscan community trapped inside in the Church of the Nativity, on Wednesday, no supplies had reached them by last night. The missionary news service said footage on some television news programmes in Europe showing Franciscans unloading food from a truck, were pictures of theology students delivering aid to the people of Bethlehem - not the church of the Nativity. Yesterday the court rejected the Franciscans appeal to have their power, water and telephones reconnected. Fr Ibrahim Faltas, representative of the community of Bethlehem, told his superiors that conditions inside the compound on the 24th day of siege were "extremely dramatic." Yesterday afternoon, the BBC reported that nine youths, wearing surgical masks, and accompanied by two Franciscan monks, had carried stretchers with the bodies of the two Palestians killed by Israeli soldiers out of the church. The bodies were collected by a Palestinian ambulance and the youths gave themselves up. The Vatican Information Service reported yesterday that the Pope made another appeal to end the siege. During his weekly general audience, he said: "My thoughts are constantly turned to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem where the religious community and numerous other people continue under a siege that has now lasted 22 days. Their conditions, already quite dramatic due to the lack of water and food, have been further aggravated by the interruption of telephone lines. We continue to pray to the Lord that a solution to this inhuman situation may be found and that, with everyone's contribution, peace may be reached in that region that is so dear to the hearts of all believers."

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