Mideast Cease-fire Sought by Papal Diplomacy

Envoy Meets Sharon and Arafat Amid Holy Land Tensions

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In the wake of Friday´s suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv discothèque that killed 20 youths, papal diplomacy is mobilizing relentlessly for renewed dialogue and an immediate cease-fire in the Holy Land.



This weekend was to be the culmination of Cardinal Pio Laghi´s mission as John Paul II´s special envoy to the Holy Land. He carried a handwritten letter by the Pope to Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon.

On Thursday, Cardinal Laghi, a former apostolic nuncio in the United States and Argentina, handed the letter to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon.

In the identical letter addressed to both leaders, the Holy Father affirms that an end to violence is a moral imperative, as is the examination of every possibility that might lead to a cease-fire and peace.

The meeting between the papal legate and the Israeli prime minister was cordial. They had already met when Sharon visited the Vatican as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Sharon confirmed his government´s willingness for peace, attested by the unilateral cease-fire proclaimed May 22, but said that "in face of the increase of terrorism and subversion," Israel cannot remain inert for long. He asked the cardinal if the Vatican could use its influence with Arafat to call for an end to terrorism.

On Friday, shortly before the funeral ceremony of Faisal Husseini, a high official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Cardinal Laghi, accompanied by the apostolic delegate in Jerusalem, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, met with Arafat.

During the cordial meeting, Arafat spoke about the sufferings of his people, and the tragic character of the situation, as well as the need for the international community´s commitment to resolve the situation.

The leader of the Palestinian Authority said he was in favor of peace based on justice.

The situation Sunday in the Holy Land remained tense, in the wake of the suicide bombing, which also wounded 90. Since Saturday night, when Arafat officially announced a cease-fire, there have been six armed incidents, according to Israel, whose government greeted the Palestinian leader´s call with skepticism.

A survey by the Palestinian Public Opinion Center found 34.4% of Palestinians support the cease-fire with Israel, 49.1% are opposed, and 16.5% had no opinion.