Nov. 30, 1999

London, 30 (NE) The Catholic Bishop's Conference in England and
Wales rejected the construction of a Mosque on public land
adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. In a
message signed by the President of the Bishop's Conference of
both countries, Archbishop Michael Bowen, and sent to the
Israeli ambassador in London, the Bishops also expressed their
concern on the authorization given by the government of Israel
to the construction of the Mosque.

The letter acknowledges that the situation is complex, but also
points out that "the actions on the part of two successive
Israeli governments, or of their agents, have aggravated and
already difficult problem by conceding the demands of extremist
groups." The letter clearly protests against the construction of
the Mosque and also emphasizes the need of religious liberty for
all, "and the nourishment of good relationships between" the
different religions.

It also states that "we must object to the government's
announced 'compromise', because the demand for the mosque arose
from and has since been used for purposes that appear aimed
directly at the Christian community. The occasion for the
inter-religious confrontation has been greatly increased by the
granting of permission to build a mosque in that location."

The letter notes that the Holy Places "hold a special place in
the hearts of pilgrims from England and Wales." It concludes
urging the Israeli government "to amend its current policy and
to seek some other solution to the dispute in Nazareth," as a
sign that "the Israeli government is committed to fostering good
relations among its citizens who belong to different religious