ROME, Sep. 6, 00 (CWNews.com/Fides) - Italian
representatives of Catholic religious orders in the Holy
Land that have custody of shrines and holy places have
asked Catholics of the world to pressure the Israeli
government to stop the "irresponsible decision" to allow
the building of a mosque in front of the basilica of the
Annunciation in Nazareth, putting the "famous shrine under
siege," according to the Fides news service.

Land-clearing operations began on Monday, preparing for the
construction of the mosque, which has caused concerned for
all the Christian Churches in the Holy Land. During an
August 14 visit to Rome, Israeli government minister Shlomo
Ben Ami, one of those responsible for the decision to allow
the construction of the mosque, "reassured" the Vatican
regarding respect for Christian holy places in Israel and

Christians and Muslims have argued, sometimes violently,
over the land next to the Church of the Annunciation in
Nazareth with Christians claiming it as their own and
wanting to build a plaza to accommodate pilgrims and with
Muslims declaring the land belonged to them and planning a
huge mosque on the site. Israel's government stepped into
the debate last year and gave most of the site to the
Muslims, allowing them to build a smaller mosque. Christian
leaders then protested by closing churches throughout the
Holy Land for two days. Muslim leaders persisted, laying
the cornerstone for the new mosque, but Israel put a hold
on plans, waiting until tempers had cooled.