Patriarch wants Bethlehem freed

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians yesterday issued an angry call for Israelis and Palestinians to stop fighting in one of Christianity’s holiest sites, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. «We express our deep sorrow and dismay for today, in the heart of Easter Week, instead of peace having returned to the Holy Land there is new fighting in the Church of the Nativity,» Patriarch Vartholomaios said, and called on both sides to «show respect for the sanctity of the place and the sanctity of the days.» «[They must] show respect for Christians’ religious feelings so that they can also demand respect for their own religion and their own holy places… Enough is enough.» In Athens, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis expressed «deep concern» over the clashes. He also hailed the suspension, on Wednesday, of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s confinement in his destroyed office by the Israeli army.

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