VATICAN, Apr 3, 02 ( -- Vatican officials
are heavily engaged in diplomatic efforts to curb the
escalating violence in the Holy Land.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State,
has been in communication with Latin-rite Patriarch
Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem and other Catholic leaders
in the Holy Land, including the representatives of
religious communities in Bethlehem.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran-- the
Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States-- met
with the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, Yosef
Neville Lamdan, and the US ambassador, James Nicholson.
Their conversations centered on the situation in
Bethlehem in particular.

The Israeli ambassador reported that his government had
sent officials from the foreign ministry to Bethlehem,
giving instructions to the army to protect the holy
places of the city, such as the Church of the Nativity.

On Wednesday morning, Archbishop Tauran's assistant,
Msgr. Celestino Migliore, met with the representative
of the Arab League in Rome, Mohamad Ali Mohamad. The
Arab League envoy told reporters that he had been asked
to transmit a message to Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat, but could no do so because Arafat is isolated
behind an Israeli blockade.

The Vatican's message to Arafat, Mohamad disclosed, was
a call for an end to suicide bombings. But the Arab
diplomat also added that the Vatican "understands the
situation of the Palestinian leader, and condemns the
Israeli action."

Mohamad Ali Mohamad said that the Arab League "has an
enormous appreciation for the involvement of the Holy
See in the search for a solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict."  He added: "We are
against terrorism. But for terrorism to cease, human
rights must be respected-- in particular, the right to
live in freedom."

The Holy See, in all diplomatic initiatives, has put
forward several points:

    - a blanket condemnation of all
acts of terrorism;

    - a condemnation of "the injustice
and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people;"

    - an insistence on respect for approved UN resolutions;

    - a call for restraint in the use of force;

    - an insistence on protection for the shrines and holy places of the region, which should be safeguarded as a common "patrimony of humanity."