Explosions, Gunfire near Nativity Church

JERUSALEM, Apr 12, 02 (CWNews.com) - Explosions and gunfire around the Church of the Nativity have raised tensions to new levels.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported two explosions from the vicinity of the church on Thursday night. There were also reports of a fire, and smoke could be seen coming from the area cordoned off by Israeli troops. Ha'aretz explained that the troops had deliberately blown up two vehicles which were suspected of being car-bombs.

The Fides news service reported that Franciscan friars inside the shrine heard gunfire. Father Giacomo Bini, the minister general of the Franciscan order, told Fides that "Israeli troops fired at the church of St. Catherine, the monastery, the sacristy, and the kitchen."

"The situation is deteriorating," Father Bini said from his Rome office. "As time passes, the friars are psychologicall yand physically ever weaker." There has been neither food nor water delivered to the Franciscans during the 11-day siege.

The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has again protested the presence of Israeli soldiers inside a House of Pilgrims operated by the Orthodox Church near the Church of the Nativity. The soldiers have reportedly set up military posts inside, and on the roof of, the church property.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, the chief foreign-policy official of the Russian Orthodox Church, wrote to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, expressing "alarm with the strained situation in Bethlehem in general, and with the Church of the Nativity of Christ in particular."

CWNews DAILY NEWS BRIEF for APRIL 12, 2002 © Copyright 2002 Domus Enterprises Chinese Police Demolish Catholic Church BEIJING, Apr 12, 02 (FIDES/CWNews.com) - Chinese police have demolished a Catholic church in Xiao Zhao village, in the province of Hebei, 120 miles south of Beijing.

The Xiao Zhao parish is in the underground Catholic diocese of Zhen Ding. The local Catholics, who had obtained the land and regular building permit for the church from the local authorities, fear that the demolition orders may have come from higher authorities.

Early Thursday morning, a security force of about 200 men entered the village. Military tanks pushed down the semi-finished walls of the building and the foundations were destroyed with explosives. The local Catholic community, about 700 people, could do nothing to stop the demolition. Eyewitnesses say they simply stood and watched, "crying and praying".

The construction of the church, began three months ago, was about one-third complete. It had been undertaken with the support of various benefactors, who contributed $60,000.

Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, who served the underground Church in the local Zhen Ding diocese, has been periodically confined under house arrest. In March he was arrested, questioned, and forbidden to lead any public ceremonies during Holy Week and Easter.

Two years ago humanitarian organiaations denounced the Chinese government for destroying more than 1,500 temples and churches in the Zhejiang region, in southeast China. The Chinese government bans people from praying in places of worship not officially registered with its Religious Affairs Bureau.

CWNews DAILY NEWS BRIEF © Copyright 2002 Domus Enterprises
12. april 2002