Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, OCT 28, 1998 (VIS) - Presidents and delegates from several bishops' conferences and from the unions of episcopal conferences of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia, cardinals and members of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land met for two days to reflect on the question of Jerusalem from October 26 - 27 in Jerusalem.

Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for Relations with States, presented the Holy See position. A delegation of seven persons visited Israeli President Ezer Weizman yesterday, and will meet today with Palestinian National Authority President Yassir Arafat.

The participants released a communique this afternoon, which says, in part:

"Jerusalem, the Holy City for the three monotheistic religions, is of unique value for the region and for the whole world. thus, Jerusalem is and ought to be a universal symbol of fraternity and peace."

"Today Jerusalem is at a crucial time in her modern history. ... Jerusalem, the city of three religions, is also home to two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, and is the heartland of their respective national aspirations. Negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, with the support of the international community, will shape 'a final status' for Jerusalem. ... Decisions will be made by political leaders but the concerns and hopes of believers must also be included in the pertinent negotiations."

"We have also reaffirmed that the uniqueness and holiness of the most sacred parts of Jerusalem require a special statute for her most sacred parts. ... Such a statute should also guarantee the sacred character and the universal cultural heritage of the city. Free access to Jerusalem should be guaranteed to all, local people and pilgrims, friends and opponents. Finally, this special statute should be supported by international guarantees." .