Nazareth Bishop Pleased, But Wary of Israel Mosque Decision

JERUSALEM, Jan 14, 02 ( - The Israeli government decision to halt construction of a mosque on a site adjacent to the Basilica of the Annunciation has left the local Catholic bishop pleased, but still concerned about the ultimate outcome of the controversy.

Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, whose Diocese of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie includes the town of Nazareth-- the most heavily Arabic town in Israel proper-- told the Roman news agency I Media that the Israeli government's move was "a positive decision, which we welcomed with relief." It was, he said, the first indication that the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "has taken into account the concerns of the Christian community and the unique importance that Nazareth has for both the local Church and the universal Church."

However, Bishop Marcuzzo pointed out that the Israeli government would now set up a commission to seek a solution to the controversy that has been brewing in Nazareth since 1999, and the outcome of that commission's work remains uncertain. "It is still too soon to say whether or not this decision will put an end to the controversy," he concluded.

The bishop stressed that the dispute over the building of a mosque had been fueled by extremist Muslim groups, representing only a small minority of the local Islamic community. And he added that the relationship between most Christians and Muslims in Nazareth remains close and friendly. "This is a purely political gambit," he said.

Catholic World News Service - Daily News Briefs
14. januar 2002