UN HOLY SEE OBSERVER
ON STATUS OF JERUSALEM VATICAN CITY,
JUN 14, 1997
(VIS) - Archbishop Renato Martino, apostolic nuncio and Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke June 9 on the status of Jerusalem at the New York headquarters of the Path to Peace Foundation. The archbishop addressed members of this foundation as well as U.S. members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He began by briefly summarizing the "well-known and long-standing position of the Holy See with regard to Jerusalem. He stated that Jerusalem "for us, of course, along with the rest of the Holy Land, is that special link between heaven and earth, that place where God walked and ultimately died among men. And of course we recognize that others revere Jerusalem as the city of David and the prophets and the city known to Mohammed. ... It is a spiritual treasure for all of humanity, and it is a city of two peoples, Arabs and Jews, and of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam."
Archbishop Martino added that "in recent years it has been increasingly difficult to break through the political and media-imposed stranglehold on the question of Jerusalem." he recounted Jerusalem's recent history, recalling in particular the UN's General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 calling for Jerusalem to be considered a 'corpus separatum' under the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations," a resolution which Israel accepted.
He pointed out that, in addressing the gridlock which has resulted from the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, "the Holy See has therefore advocated the granting to Jerusalem of an 'internationally guaranteed special statute.
That is the phrase used by Pope John Paul II in his 1984 Apostolic Letter 'Redemptionis Anno'." This statute "asks that regardless of how the problem of sovereignty is resolved and who is called to exercise it, there should be a supra-national and international entity endowed with means adequate to insure the preservation of the special characteristics of the City, its Holy Places, the freedom to visit them, its religious and ethnic communities, a guarantee of their essential liberties, and its city plan'.
The apostolic nuncio recalled the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel in 1993, when both signed the 'Fundamental Agreement." He noted Article 4 of this agreement where "both the Holy See and Israel affirm their continuing commitment to the 'Status quo' in the Christian Holy Places."
He also spoke of the problems sparked by Israel's recent authorization of "a project for the construction of settlements in occupied territory in East Jerusalem" for which "there was wide-spread international condemnation." This issue, he reminded those present, was brought before the UN Security Council on March 7 and March 21 of this year, but without resolution "because the sole country on the Security Council which opposed the Resolution was the United States."
An Emergency Session of the General Assembly, "organized only nine other times in the history of the United Nations" was held on April 24-25. The Holy See delegation was contacted and asked for suggestions for a Resolution, Archbishop Martino said. And he recounted the meetings, rough drafts of proposals and negotiations which followed. The approved texts of the eventual Resolution, he underlined, contained "those points championed by the Holy See. ... The General Assembly has here called for 'internationally guaranteed provisions' - the equivalent of the 'internationally guaranteed special status' called for by Pope John Paul II.
This is particularly noteworthy because in this case, the Arab delegations all voted for this Resolution and therefore for this provision." "The Holy Places within Jerusalem," concluded Archbishop Martino, "are not merely museum relics to be opened and closed by the dominant political authority, no matter who that might be at any given moment. They are living shrines precious to the hearts and faith of believers."