Catholics discuss Jerusalem with Arafat, Weizman

VATICAN ( october 28th-- Catholic participants in a symposium on the future of Jerusalem-- an event chaired by Patriarch Michel Sabbah-- have met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat this week, voicing their concerns about the future of the Holy City.

Patriarch Sabbah, the Latin-rite Catholic leader, convened the two- day symposium in Jerusalem to stimulate discussion of the Church's hopes for the future of the city. The most noteworthy speech was provided by Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican foreign minister, who denounced the unilateral annexation of Jerusalem by Israel as "illegal," and called for international guarantees of open access to the city.

A final communique issued by the symposium urged pilgrims visiting the Holy City to express their "solidarity" with the Christian community there. The statement emphasized that as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators discuss the future of the city, "the concerns and hopes of believers should also be included in the negotiations.

" Toward that end, a delegation from the symposium visited Weizman and Arafat to remind them of the Christian concerns. The symposium called upon all believers, of every faith, to "work together with sincerity and mutual confidence" to ensure that Jerusalem will be a city of peace and a place for reconciliation. To Christians in particular, the symposium issued the challenge to ensure that the Christian community in Jerusalem will continue to thrive, offering a continuous witness to the Gospel in the city where Jesus died.