VATICAN, Nov. 14, 00 ( -- The Holy See has entered a new plea for international guarantees protecting access to the holy sites of Jerusalem.

Speaking at the United Nations, during a debate on the status of Palestinian refugees, Archbishop Renato Martino said that Jerusalem's shrines should be protected against all sorts of political maneuvers. In the course of his address-- which was delivered on October 30, but made public by the Vatican on November 14-- the archbishop reiterated the Vatican view that there should be "a statute guaranteed internationally to safeguard the holy places of Jews, Christians, and Muslims." He observed that these three great monotheistic religions account for 45 percent of the world's population, and consequently Jerusalem should be seen as a common "spiritual patrimony" for humanity.

The "unique character" of Jerusalem as a city sacred to three great religions makes it essential that religious leaders, not politicians, control the holy sites, Archbishop Martino said. "The holy places should be protected against use for political ends."