VATICAN CITY, APR 4, 2002 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls yesterday afternoon released the following statement concerning the dramatic situation in the Middle East:

"In the face of the worrying deterioration of the situation in the Holy Land and numerous appeals for aid that have reached the Holy Father from all sides, the Secretariat of State as well as the pontifical representation in Jerusalem have been in contact with the parties concerned. Then yesterday, April 2, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, summoned Ambassador Yosef Neville Lamdan of Israel, and, today (April 3), Ambassador James Nicholson of the United States, to discuss the dramatic situation in Bethlehem.

"In various meetings, the position of the Holy See, authoritatively expressed by the Holy Father, John Paul II and reiterated in the public interventions of recent days, was reaffirmed:

1. unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, from whatever side it may come.

2. disapproval of the conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people, as well as reprisals and retaliation, which only make the sense of frustration and hatred grow.

3. respect for the United Nations resolutions, by all sides.

4. proportionality in the use of legitimate means of defense.

5. the duty for the parties in conflict to protect the sacred places, (which are) very significant for the three monotheistic religions and the patrimony of all of humanity.

"At the same time, this morning, April 3, Msgr. Celestino Migliore, under-secretary for Relations of States, received Mohamad Ali Mohamad, director of the Delegation of the League of Arab States to the Holy See, to whom he has explained the position of the Holy See, insisting, in particular, on the necessity to put an end to indiscriminate acts of terrorism.

"Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, and the substitute, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, have been in close contact with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the religious communities of Bethlehem, conveying to them the Holy Father's complete solidarity in this painful moment."