September 5, 1997

VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II has sent a telegram to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing his "strongest and most categorical condemnation" of the latest suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

The Pope's message, relayed by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, assailed the "recourse to violence" and "attack on innocent and defenseless persons." The Pope said he was "terribly saddened" by the news of the new bombing, and expressed his solidarity with all those "Israelis, Palestinians, and people of good will-- who are plunged into anguish and consternation" by the latest tragedy. The Pope issued a new appeal to all those involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations, and "the members of the international community who are in a position to help the peace process," to work for an immediate return to negotiations. Such talks, he said, should secure "the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people" as well as the lasting security of Israel. At his Angelus audience last Sunday, the Pope spoke with emotion about both the horror caused by the earlier bombings in Jerusalem and the subsequent sufferings of the Palestinian people, especially in Bethlehem, as the result of Israeli blockades.